It is doubtful that patrons of the music halls of Edwardian England were treated to anything like A Gentleman’s Guide…

by Ann Marie Cusella

A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder is playing at MusicalFare Theatre from July 6 to August 7, 2022.

A Terrific Production of a Terrific Classic

MusicalFare Theatre has mounted a terrific production of A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder. Director and Choreographer Doug Weyand has assembled eight very talented actors and a superb production team to create a feel-good, seamless musical theater experience that delights the senses.

Based on a 1907 novel, which was also the inspiration for the 1949 Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, in which Alec Guiness played nine roles, A Gentleman’s Guide… won 4 Tony awards in 2014, including Best Musical.

It is doubtful that patrons of the music halls of Edwardian England were treated to anything like A Gentleman’s Guide…, a satire on the popular melodramas that proliferated in the early 20th Century. Rather than a damsel in distress being threatened by a black-hearted villain, A Gentleman’s Guide… presents us with a likable serial killer, a sociopath who is sweet and charming – most of the time – and a series of upper-crust snobs who stand in the way of his dreams.

Don’t sleep on this Classic

Meet Our Hero

When we meet Monty Navarro, our hero (such as he is), he is in prison waiting for news of his possible execution for murder. He is writing his memoirs as he awaits his fate, and he tells the story of his life and exploits. Shortly after his mother’s death, he discovered that he is eighth in line to become the Earl of Highhurst, as his mother had been cast out of the wealthy D’Yscuith family for marrying his father, a poor Castilian musician. She married for love rather than duty. Tsk tsk. Monty decides to vanquish the people who mistreated his beloved mother, plus he would like to be Earl – why not? – and begins to eliminate them one by one.

Ricky Needham plays Monty with an impish grin, a twinkle in his eye, and a great deal of charm. It is impossible not to like him, as he dispatches one D’Ysquith after another. As he wrestles with his conscience (such as it is), one can almost see the wheels turning as he convinces himself he deserves to be Earl. 

Marc Sacco plays all of the D’Yscuiths, young and old, men and very buxom women. He gives each character a unique flavor, although almost all of them display the haughtiness of the privileged who turn up their noses at the unwashed masses. Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith’s song, I Don’t Understand the Poor, speaks volumes about the chasm between the classes. From the doddering Reverend Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith, to Lord Adalbert, who is the very angry last D’Ysquith standing (or is he?), and the others in between, each has their own story to tell, and Mr. Sacco imbues each with their own personality. Excellent!

Solange Gosselin and Emily Yancey are Monty’s love interests. Ms. Gosselin plays the very lovely and self-involved Sibella to the hilt. She will not marry Monty because of his poverty (I Don’t Know What I’d Do), yet flirts unashamedly with him. But is she as mercenary as she seems?  Ms. Yancey, as Monty’s second love interest, Phoebe, the sister of beekeeper Henry D’Ysquith, packs a vocal range that she puts to very good use as the sympathetic, sweet woman who will become Monty’s wife.

The Ensemble cast includes Jenn Stafford, who also plays the comical Miss Shingle, the hilarious biscuit-spewing friend of Monty’s washerwoman mother, who brings him the news of his heritage (You’re a D’Ysquith). Michelle Holden as the droll Lady Eugenia, gives as good as she gets in her hate/hate relationship with her husband, Lord Adalbert. John Panepinto brings his baritone and Jon May his judicial presence to round out the cast. They all have a great time playing ancestral portraits that come alive in addition to their other roles.

Challenge your Constitution

Music Director Theresa Quinn and her excellent musicians bring a music hall flavor to the score. Set, Lighting, Projection & Sound are by Chris Cavanagh. The red velvet curtain not only evokes the times, but also allows for invisible scene changes. The projections on the upstage wall provide background for each scene, whether a country garden, or a church tower that is the vehicle for the demise of the Reverend Ezekiel, in a scene reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Costumes by Kari Drozd are a gorgeous paean to the times and sometimes characters in themselves, as in body-builder Major Asquith’s ripped physique. Properties are by Kevin Fahey.

In the opening number, A Warning to the Audience, a group dressed in mourning clothes advises those of “weaker constitution” to depart. But, heed them not. Stay for this 2-½ hour (including intermission) stylish and witty musical that will amuse and delight you from start to finish. You will be glad you did.

A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder is at MusicalFare Theatre through August 7th.

Dates, Tickets and More Information

A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder is playing at MusicalFare Theatre from July 6 to August 7, 2022!

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