The Suburban Times Disclaimer – Corona Caused Non-Events: The best reviews of plays, meetings, and fund raisers that never happened!
“Set in London in 1907, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder centers on Monty Navarro, a penniless clerk who is informed after the death of his mother that he is ninth in line to inherit the earldom of Highhurst, controlled by the wealthy D’Ysquith banking family. After the imperious ruling Lord dismisses Monty’s claim of being a relative, the eight D’Ysquiths ahead of young Mr. Navarro begin dying in natural and unnatural ways. (A single actor plays all the not-so-nice D’Ysquiths, adding to the merriment.) Meanwhile, Monty is trying to woo money-minded Sibella Hallward — until he finds himself drawn to young Phoebe D’Ysquith. How will all these convoluted storylines come together? – broadway.com/shows/gentlemans-guide-love-murder/
I must have seen every black and white British comedy on late night TV as a teenager: I howled at Alec Guiness and Peter Sellers as well as the low budget but still very funny Carry On troupe. Many films stood out, but Kind Hearts and Coronets with Alec Guiness playing eight related characters was an absolute favorite. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is based on Kind Hearts and Coronets, which is based on the 1907 novel by Roy Horniman Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal. Actually, the acting and the singing, the tunes and the preciseness of the British elocution reminds me of Gilbert & Sullivan, but unlike the blood thirsty Pirates of Penzance where the pirates are actually too nice to commit a falsehood much less murder, in A Gentleman’s Guide the whole point is to commit murder . . . one after another while maintaining a stiff upper lip and delightfully climbing the social ladder.
FYI: There are no trumpets or cornets in the production. Coronets refer to small crowns and minor royalty.
It’s almost a play within a play . . . or at least a stage upon a stage.
Playing the Alec Guiness part of both male and female and constantly getting killed was John Munn. John did a great job. I’m sure he’s never died like this on stage before. John is Managing Artistic Director at Lakewood Playhouse. He had a ball and loved the production. He says, “Imagine a show that has the vocal veracity of Gilbert & Sullivan racing Stephen Sondheim to see who’s faster and throw in a heavy dose of Monty Python and you’ve got Gentleman’s Guide.” Scott Polovitch-Davis who plays killer and social climber Monty D’Ysquith Navarro says, “John is delightful to work with and has been a wonderful scene partner . . . it’s almost a pity I have to kill him off so many times! I love all of his characters, but I think Cousin Henry is my favorite – we have a rousing good time and even participate in a bar fight before Henry feels the sting of death.”
The vocally challenging music takes both the skill of high Opera and physical demands of the most modern of musicals. The three leads, Scott Polovitch-Davis, Brittney Ogren, Ally Atwood and the entire ensemble weren’t just keeping up with it, they owned it and were deliriously thrilled to share it with the world! Sibella Hallward (played by Brittney Stout Ogren) makes up her mind to marry Monty. Brittney has a lovely voice and brilliant comedic timing. She revealed what she loved about the production and her role, “Sibella was definitely a bucket list role for me. Her fiery personality and incredible vocal range were a welcomed challenge. Over all, the music is probably what I enjoyed the most. It’s incredibly difficult and intricate while perfectly blending classico with contemporary styles, specifically in “I’ve Decided to Marry You.” It’s fast pace, hilarious timing and edgy lyrics make it one of the best musical numbers I’ve ever done. There’s nothing quite like it out there for a trio.” Scott (Monty) says, “My heart is pounding and I’m sweating by the end of that number, but the audiences just eat it up.”
The women in the show are jaw-droppingly amazing. Ally Atwood’s (Phoebe) pure soprano soars in her solos and above the ensemble, and she can bat her eyes and pout like nobody’s business.
Scott Polovitch-Davis pre-recorded the introduction and commentaries that accompany the story as it develops. Gary J. Chambers of Chatato Pips Recording Studio enjoyed working with Monty (played by Scott) and revealed “For a stage actor, working behind a microphone with no one to play off of is no easy feat. Scott was able to drop into and fully inhabit the scene he was setting up with Monty’s narration. Every syllable and inflection was channeled to propel the story forward with the emotional resonance needed so it fit in the broader context of the live performance.”
A dizzying array of costume changes for the D’ysquith murder targets were masterfully supervised, choreographed and administered by Joel Larson, who created a show backstage that rivaled the one happening onstage. I was entertained by the antics both backstage and onstage. The costumes are incredible. Phoebe and Sibella in particular wear the most amazing gowns.
Director & Choreographer Jon Douglas Rake says, “This show is a technically difficult show both set, costume, and lighting but also for the cast. The music is hard and complex. . . I have waited all year for this show. The show is beautiful and very professional looking.”
My favorite song is Poison in My Pocket. You can’t keep up with the words, nor the actions and descriptions, so just sit back, relax, and laugh.
Speak these words as fast as you can, utter them precisely with breathing at the end of the third and sixth line:
“But no! As I’m cutting I am contemplating,
And the truth is it’s a tad exhilarating
Even though it’s not inconceivable that I’ll get caught
Still it comes as quite a shock it seems
A novice standing here with poison in his pocket
Can decide that murdering is easier then he had thought”
Poison in My Pocket
Robert L. Freedman
The music, just like a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta is wonderful and well supported by both the cast and the ensemble. The TMP Orchestra led by Musical Director Jeffrey Stvrtecky was fantastic and well up to the fast pace challenge. The visuals were magic thanks to Lighting Designer John Chenault, Set Designer Dennis Kurtz, Scenic Technician Bruce Haasl, and Costume Designers Julles M and Grace Stone.
There is word that this show might even be brought back. The set wasn’t torn down, but was stored away . . . just in case.
To keep up with Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s multitude of happenings, please visit their website for information and tickets – tmp.org/
In the end Monty just might get away with murder, a good income, and two women who love him.