I had no idea that I ever would laugh so much, so hard, and so unashamedly at the antics of a serial-killer! But the delightfully madcap silliness of this script, coupled with the high-octane energy of this cast, the brisk pacing, the flawless singing, and the visual delights of the set, the costumes, and the choreography combine to make Raleigh Little Theatre’s A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder a must-see, must-hear, must-feel spectacle. Director Patrick Torres has performed yet another outstanding feat of magic!
The musical is set in 1907 in England, and Monty Navarro (played with just the right amount of amusing tongue-in-cheek restraint by Tyler Graeper) is mourning the very recent loss of his mother when he is approached by Miss Shingle (portrayed with exquisite exaggeration by Leanne Bernard), who reveals to him that, although he had been raised in poverty by his washerwoman mother, he is actually a blood relative of the well-to-do D’Ysquith family. His mother had been disowned because she married a Spanish musician “for love.” Indeed, Monty is told that he is “in line” to become the next Earl of Highhurst, BUT: he is eighth in line, so several people would have to die….
Monty’s love interest, Sibella (Lauren Knott knows exactly how to play air-headed self-interest), announces that she plans to marry a wealthier man; and she inadvertently plants in Monty’s head the idea of murdering his way to the front of the line.
Shallow and snooty, the D’Ysquith family has been despicably hostile toward Monty’s mother’s attempts to re-connect (as well as to Monty’s).
Will he make it? And will we cheer for him?
The above-mentioned cast members are joined by Lauren Bamford as Monty’s sweet, loveable “other” love interest and by a highly talented, tightly rehearsed ensemble, which includes Shana Fisher, Lauren Tompkins, Katherine Anderson, Ted Willis, Greg Toft, and Jon Karnofsky.
And Brian Westbrook shows his comic genius by serving up a true Whitman Sampler of characters as he portrays the eight doomed members of the D’Ysquith family, including a priest (or, perhaps, I should say “pwiest”); the current earl’s son; a foppish beekeeper; a well-muscled body-builder; a ridiculous actress (who is a legend in her own mind); and a self-absorbed philanthropist.
Choreographer Nancy Rich supplies imaginative numbers that the cast executes with aplomb.
Scenic designer/technical director Dennis R. Berfield teams up with projection designer Tyler Elrod, lighting designer Kaitlin Gill Rider, and costume designer Jenny Mitchell to create a visual feast that simply will not quit.
And Danielle Welsh is chief of a crew of more than a dozen dressers who must be performing at breakneck speed as they flawlessly handle the plethora of costume changes.
The show begins with “A Warning to the Audience” — a sort of disclaimer that encourages the faint-of-heart to leave — now!
The scene that involves cutting a hole in the ice of a skating rink includes simulated snowing.
The first death scene is hilarious in every aspect, and the ensuing death scenes are progressively funnier.
“Portraits” on the wall sing (and so do sculptured faces).
The “love triangle” affords a priceless “doors scene.”
The 2013 Broadway production ran for over two years, winning four Tony Awards® in 2014, including Best Musical.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder features music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak and book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman. The script is based on Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal, a 1907 novel by Roy Horniman, and I understand that the novel also inspired a 1949 British film Kind Hearts and Coronets, starring Sir Alec Guinness. I just might have to dig up both the book and the film.
The Last Word:
Director Patrick Torres has given us a production that pulls out every stop. In addition to the everpresent wit of the dialogue, there are sight gags galore (and I am sure I missed more of them than I caught). Indeed, I found myself wondering if it was a coincidence that the hero (or, perhaps, anti-hero) of this play has the same first name as that of a fellow named Monty Python. As I stated earlier, this is a show that is not-to-be-missed. By the way: when the entire audience stands during curtain call, I recommend that you stand too (or you might just miss the final gag).
SECOND OPINION: Aug. 17th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: https://www.cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=9529; and Aug. 14th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/gentlemans-guide-love-murder-raleigh-little-theatre-august-2019/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Aug. 20th Triangle Review review by Melanie Simmons, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2019/08/wickedly-funny-gentlemans-guide-to-love-murder-is-and-a-diamond-in-rlts-crown/.)
Raleigh Little Theatre presents A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER at 8 p.m. Aug. 22-24, 3 p.m. Aug. 25, 8 p.m. Aug. 29-31, and 3 p.m. Sept. 1 in RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $27 ($23 students and seniors 62+).
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0S0V00001Ezt1qUAB.
SHOW: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/a-gentlemans-guide-to-love-murder/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/2616388268385259/.
RLT‘S 2019-20 SEASON: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/announcing-the-2019-2020-season-now-then/.
PRESENTER: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows. RLT has also installed a hearing loop in the Cantey V. Sutton Theatre.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25th, performance.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (2013 San Diego and 2013 Broadway musical): https://www.mtishows.com/a-gentlemans-guide-to-love-and-murder (Music Theatre International), http://www.agentlemansguidebroadway.com/ (unofficial website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/a-gentlemans-guide-to-love-murder-494804 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Gentleman%27s_Guide_to_Love_and_Murder (Wikipedia).
Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics): https://www.stevenlutvak.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/steven-lutvak-494807 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1276476/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Lutvak (Wikipedia).
Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics): http://robertlfreedmanwriter.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/robert-l-freedman-494806 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0293231/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_L._Freedman (Wikipedia).
Patrick Torres (Raleigh, NC director and RLT artistic director): http://raleighlittletheatre.org/people/patrick-torres/ (RLT bio) and https://www.facebook.com/patrick.torres.585 (Facebook page).
Nancy Gardner Rich (Raleigh, NC choreographer): http://www.abouttheartists.com/artists/492074-nancy-rich (AboutTheArtists bio) and https://www.facebook.com/nancy.g.rich.3 (Facebook page).
Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.