Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder opens with a warning to the audience of the grisly contents of the story. Even though the plot line does involve ambition, lust, class privilege, and murder, the show itself is absolutely delightful and as ambitious as its protagonist. From the live orchestra to the pitch-perfect cast, director Patrick Torres’ masterful direction has produced one of the highest-quality shows of the year.
The story centers on Montague Navarro, a penniless young man who discovers upon the death of his mother that he is a disowned member of the fabulously wealthy D’Ysquith family. When he realizes that only eight D’Ysquiths stand between him and the top of the family tree, “Monty” hatches a murderous plan to lop off the branches and murder his way into his estranged family, in hopes that raising his financial and social standing will win him the woman he loves.
Tyler Graeper plays Monty with such gangly aplomb that the audience is rooting for him even as he delves into the world of intrigue and murder. Graeper’s angular poise and strong vocals make him loveable, despite his questionable life choices.
Lauren Knott shines as Sibella, the object of Monty’s desire and a conniving, social-climbing ice princess in her own right. Lauren Bamford plays sweet and effable Phoebe, the only D’Ysquith that Monty isn’t trying to kill. Indeed, Phoebe’s got her eyes on Monty; and the ensuing love triangle provides much comic relief — not to mention great music.
Knott’s rich singing voice blends beautifully with Bamford’s trilling operatic tones, even as their characters compete for Monty’s affections. A strong ensemble cast with powerhouse vocals rounds out the surprisingly small cast for so convoluted a storyline.
This is made possible by the fact that almost the entire D’Ysquith family is played by Brian Westbrook, about whom not enough can be said. Westbrook’s masterful performance in bringing to life multiple D’Ysquiths — each with their own manner of walking, speaking, and singing (even modulating his vibrato as needed) — is so distinct and hilarious that it carries most of the show. This tour-de-force display of talent and performance mastery belongs on Broadway; and for Triangle area theater lovers, it is absolutely not to be missed.
The show has a rather long run-time, but that’s ameliorated by stunning performances, smooth scene transitions, and a blessedly live orchestra. Huge props need to go out to the costuming, deck, and lighting crews that keep everything running at top speed. Watching the many manifestations of Westbrook — erm, the D’Ysquith family, that is — meet various untimely deaths, and the suspense of whether or not Monty will achieve his lofty (albeit villainous) goals, kept the audience on the edge of their seats opening weekend.
This show will only grow stronger during its run, which was just extended to Sept. 5-8. It is wickedly entertaining production and a sparkling diamond in Raleigh Little Theatre’s crown, and it will be remembered as one of RLT‘s finest shows.
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. 19th Triangle Review review by Kurt Benrud, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2019/08/a-gentlemans-guide-to-love-murder-at-rlt-exceeds-even-the-greatest-of-expectations/.)
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, 3 p.m. Sept. 1, 8 p.m. Sept. 5-7, and 3 p.m. Sept. 8 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).
Melanie Simmons of Cary, NC is a film and stage actress with a BA degree in Theatre from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA. She has studied acting with Sande Shurin Acting Studios in New York City and The Actor’s Workshop in Los Angeles, CA; and she now trains locally with Lynda Clark (stage), Daryl Ray Carlisle (film/commercial), and Rebekah Holland (voice). Simmons has performed at Raleigh Little Theatre in Raleigh, Forest Moon Theater in Wake Forest, Stageworks Theatre in Holly Springs, and many others. She is represented by Talent One Agency in Raleigh. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.