Photo by Francis Gerard
Written by Patrick Chavis
You know you’ve struck gold when you’ve created something that is rewatchable. People will rewatch new productions of Les Mis and Into the Woods until the cows come home. These are good stories and good plays. Even when we know how it’s going to end, we want to watch it again. I experienced this with the musical comedy A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (hereinafter referred to as Gentleman’s Guide). It’s got a fantastic book of memorable tunes, and it’s genuinely funny. I was not surprised to find out it won a Tony. This new production of Gentlemen’s Guide from Southgate Productions captured the show’s spirit. Even if you’re only vaguely paying attention, it’s not bad. However, overall, the details keeping you engaged were at times lacking.
Gentlemen’s Guide is a story of revenge and murder — set to music. After his mother’s passing, Monty Navarro, played by Paul Zelhart, discovers he’s part of a wealthy aristocratic family called the D’Ysquiths, who disowned his mother for eloping with someone they believed was below their station. With genuine proof that he’s a D’Ysquith, Monty goes on a rampage of hysterical murder in hopes of becoming the new Earl, but there are a lot of family members in the way.
The book by Robert L. Freedman, what a treat. He’s able to write about these horrible people doing horrible things to each other for the run of the show, but you still kind of root for Monty. At the very least, you want to see where this rope ends. Even his toxic relationship with the beautiful Sibella, played by Kalinda Gray, on the surface is not completely devoid of love. It’s a complicated and compelling relationship.
Gentlemen’s Guide relies a lot on its comedy, but it does has some catchy songs: “I Don’t Know What I’d Do”, the hilarious, “I Don’t Understand The Poor,” and the heart-wrenching ballad “Sibella”. I could keep going. There’s some really good music in this show.
The stage seemed so empty during certain scenes of this production and fuller in others. This lack of synergy with the space on stage takes you out of the illusion. It’s frustrating when it happens because you want to be fully immersed. The staging for “I’ve Decided to Marry You” was lovely.
Zelhart sings and performs well. One of the show’s highlights is the palpable chemistry between him and Gray. It’s obvious these actors are comfortable with each other on stage.
Phoebe D’Ysquith has one of the most challenging vocal ranges since the role requires a soprano, but Hailey Tweter makes it look effortless.
They have a big red curtain used for scene transitions, and there were some good set pieces. They used a projector for the background in plenty of scenes. While this can be a creative way to tell the story, the projection appeared blown out. Where is the contrast?
The sound quality at the Curtis was fabulous. I was close to the back row but could hear everything clearly. The voices from the ensemble were well-balanced.
Story8Acting7Set & Design6.5Costumes8Entertainment8
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