Salt Lake City – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, written by Robert Freedman and Steven Lutvak, won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2014, and the touring company production has now made its way to Salt Lake City at Kingsbury Hall this week as a part of the Broadway Across America season. The story follows a young man, Monty Navarro, played by Kevin Massey, as he tries to gain his place within a wealthy family that he happens to be a distant relative of, all while navigating through a world of love.
This production, simply put, was lovely, humorous, and very enjoyable. Director Darko Tresnjak did an excellent job putting together a lively and entertaining production. The storyline was original, the music catchy, and the set amazing. I could discuss a great deal of the production at length, but there are a few extreme standouts that I will focus on. First, the opening number is aptly titled “A Warning to the Audience,” and as a theatre patron, I have to say that I applaud a musical that says in the beginning, look, this is a tale that contains some adult subject matter, so if you are faint of heart, go home. A much more fun and interesting way to say make sure you check the subject matter before you decide to bring your 8 year old.
The technical aspects of this production were very interesting, especially the scenic design by Alexander Dodge and the costume design by Linda Cho. Cho was awarded the 2014 for her costume design of this production, and with good reason. One actor, whom I will get to in a moment, plays several characters, and the costuming choices made by Cho were so perfect that it actually took me a moment to realize this was the same actor in his second role. As for the set, it was an interesting combination of elegant and functional, and I was impressed each time the set changed, especially in regards to some of the special effects in the mansion. Saying more would ruin some of the spectacle of those attending.
Massey has the difficult job of portraying a character that is someone the audience should root for, while at the same time understanding that he is committing tasks that, well, go along with the title of the show. Massey portrayed Navarro with such elegance and interest that I found myself hoping he would be successful in his quest to the powerful station he sought.
Massey’s barriers, by in large, were represented by the D’Ysquith family, a family that has eight heirs to the earlship before Mr. Navarro. As an interesting plot, the writers chose to have all eight D’Ysquith family members, male and female, played by one actor, John Rapson. And it is indeed Mr. Rapson’s performance that makes up the most enjoyable parts of the show. From a spoiled, sexually questioning countrymen to an Old Maid, to a mean old Lord, Rapson captures each character with humor and interest. Some of the best moments revolve around each member of the D’Ysquith family, and two of the best musical numbers of the evening, “I Don’t Understand the Poor,” and “Better with A Man,” show off Rapson’s understanding of comedic acting and timing.
Additionally, we have two leading ladies working to win the attention and affection of Mr. Navarro. Sibella, played by Kristen Beth Williams, is a love from before Mr. Navarro’s rise to prominence, and Phoebe, a D’Ysquith cousin, played by Adrienne Eller, who finds herself smitten as well. The song that involves the three of them, “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” is one of the most clever and well-staged musical numbers that I have ever witnessed.
Further, the entire ensemble is fine-tuned and well-rehearsed and everything that should be expected by a Broadway touring company. In my opinion, the best part is that the audience was not giving a few complimentary chuckles, instead, we were all thoroughly amused and laughing right out loud.