OGDEN — The Ziegfeld Theater’s production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is a captivating experience with an impressive cast and stellar visuals.  Directed by Caleb Parry, this musical comedy is rich in laughter and intrigue and may cause one to question exactly how terrible is it to root for the bad guy.

Show closes May 13, 2023.

With the book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder takes place in England during the early 1900s. Upon returning home from his mother’s funeral, Montague “Monty” Navarro learns his mother was a member of the prominent D’Ysquith family, but was disavowed when she married a man (Monty’s father) in whom they did not approve. Armed with the knowledge that he is ninth in line to be Earl of Highhurst, Monty writes to the family explaining who he is in hopes of acquiring a job to improve his circumstances. Sibella Hallward, the woman who refused Monty due to his poverty, is weary of his connection to the D’Ysquiths but admits that, regardless, eight people would have to die before he would become Earl. When confronted with a situation in which a particular D’Ysquith could conveniently die, Monty assumes the role of murderer and soon finds himself at the front of the family line.

Paul McGrew as Monty gave a powerful performance. His English dialect was accurate and consistent throughout, both in word and song. He delivered his dialogue with precision and sang beautifully. Perhaps where McGrew shined brightest, though, was with his facial expressions. McGrew managed to convey a variety of emotions – everything from confusion to deceit – without uttering a single word. There was never any wonder about how Monty was feeling during his hilarious interactions with each of the D’Ysquith relatives.

Jake Larrabee, who performed all eight of the D’Ysquith family members, commanded the stage and gave a truly outstanding performance. The night belonged to Larrabee as he seamlessly transformed from a clergyman to a banker to a bodybuilder – often with minimal time in between scenes. He portrayed each member of the family flawlessly, no doubt requiring an impressive physical stamina not always needed by a single actor on the stage.

McGrew and Larrabee complimented each other well in their respective roles. One particularly delightful scene was between Monty and Henry D’Ysquith as they sang “Better With a Man.” The harmonies in the song were beautiful and the fact that both characters had very different ideas as to what exactly was better with a man made the scene that much more enjoyable. Musical direction given by Wendy Knowles was brilliant in this scene.

Sariah Shumate as Sibella Hallward gave a noteworthy performance. She and McGrew had incredible chemistry and portrayed very convincing secret lovers. Samantha Paredes as Phoebe D’Ysquith also gave a wonderful performance, and her singing voice was the strongest of the cast. Shumate’s and Paredes’s performance of “The Horrible Woman” was a highlight of the evening when it becomes clear that the two women, despite being rivals, conspired to save Monty when he was accused of murder.

Costume design choices by Morgan Parry were marvelous and helped amplify the production, most specifically when it came to the D’Ysquith family. They were detailed and dramatic and really brought each character’s personality to life. The mustaches were my personal favorite.

Sydney McAlister’s stage management was a great strength to the production, most notably the revolving stage and the use of visual effects. One scene in which the set design and visual details really added depth was when Monty and the clergyman are climbing the bell tower stairs. The revolving stage allowed the actors to exaggerate their movements. Also, the visual effects used as the clergyman “accidentally” falls out of the bell tower was executed well. Another enjoyable detail with regards to the set was the framed painting of Bill Murray as a Russian general.

Minor details could be changed to improve the overall production. The voice over narration spoken by Monty at times was challenging to hear. Every so often, actors standing off to the side of center stage did not have adequate lighting and were difficult to see. A sturdy, wooden bench was removed from the stage in the middle of a scene by being dragged across the floor. It was quite disruptive and I was confused as to why it wasn’t moved during a scene change or at least picked up off the floor to be less conspicuous.

It is always a pleasure witnessing productions presented by The Ziegfeld Theatre, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is no exception. The cast and production staff have created a highly entertaining experience that only a fool would miss.

A Gentleman’s Guide for Love and Murder plays at The Ziegfeld Theatre, 3934 Washington Blvd, Ogden, Utah on Fridays and Saturdays from April 28 through May 13, 2003  at 7:30 with an ASL performance on May 5 and a 2:00 performance on May 6. There is an additional performance on Thursday, May 11 at 7:30. Tickets are $22.95 – $24.95. For more information, visit www.zigarts.com.