Entertainment » Theatre

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

by Jack Gardner
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jan 11, 2018
James Taylor Odom and Blake Price.
James Taylor Odom and Blake Price.  

On the evening of 10 January, Broadway Across America and The Broward Center of the Performing Arts presented the NETworks tour of "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder." This is the first production of the 2014 Tony Award-winning musical to be seen in Fort Lauderdale.

Loosely based on the 1907 novel "Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal," which in turn inspired the 1949 movie "Kind Hearts and Coronets," this musical tells the story of an enterprising young man, Montague D'Ysquith Navarro, who through various nefarious and comical means becomes the 9th Earl of Highhurst.

"Gentleman's Guide" marked the Broadway debut of composer Steven Lutvak. The score is delightful and manages a perfect blend of traditional operetta and musical theater while still sounding fresh and contemporary. The tunes are catchy and if you don't walk out humming the second act number "I've Decided to Marry You," you quite possibly weren't paying attention. The lyrics by Robert L. Freedman add a perfectly balanced wit to Lutvak's music. Notable numbers include the duet "Inside Out," the semi-love songs "Poor Monty" and "Sibella" and the beautifully crafted 11 o'clock duet "That Horrible Woman." Freedman also wrote the book, which is well constructed and never lags or leaves the audience bored.

The cast for this, the second national tour, is superb. In the role of Monty Navarro, Blake Price was charming, sly, and handsome with an innocent air while doing despicable things to his relatives. It was a perfect execution of a difficult role as he rarely is allowed to leave the stage. His singing voice is a pleasant baritone with a strong falsetto, of which the score made ample use.

In the role of Phoebe D'Ysquityh, Erin McIntyre was allowed to show off a glorious soprano voice with some ringing high notes. She was a perfect foil for the lower voice of Colleen McLaughlin who played the role of Sibella Hallward. Both of these women were lovely to look at on stage and had great chemistry with Price.

James Taylor Odom played all of the D'Ysquith family. From Asquith Junior and Senior to Henry, Hyacinth, Salome, Bartholomew, Ezekial and Lord Adalbert Odom changed costumes and characters with great efficiency and aplomb. Multiple roles are always a challenge for an actor, but Odom rose to it with ease. Every character he portrayed had wonderfully distinct vocal and physical mannerisms. It was a tour de force performance.

In the smaller roles of Miss Shingle and Lady Eugenia, Kristen Kane and Colleen Gallager gave especially memorable performances. The remaining ensemble was solid. Overall the cast had the music and the comedy timing down perfectly.

The set by Alexander Dodge with costumes by Linda Cho and lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg all worked together to present a beautiful picture of Edwardian London. The dresses for Sibella and Pheobe were particularly beautiful and colorful.

The 7-piece orchestra was conducted by Josh Cullen. The orchestration for this show is unusual in that it is woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion without the use of the keyboards which have become commonplace in modern musicals. It's not a full orchestra, but it does a very good imitation of one.

In an age where people feel like Disney has taken over Broadway, and that great composers like Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers are a thing of the past, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" is a beacon of hope that tells us that the traditional American musical comedy is still alive and well. The score is as delightful as that of any of the "Golden Era" musicals. It is tradition combined beautifully with modern sensibilities.

If you only go see one musical this year, make sure it's "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" runs through 21 Jan at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts located at 201 SW 5th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312. For tickets and information call 954.462.0222 or visit browardcenter.org

Jack Gardner has been producing theater in Dallas and Fort Lauderdale for the past 8 years. He has performed in operas, musicals and dramatic works as well as doing voice-over and radio work. Jack lives in South Florida with his three dogs.


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