Let’s Review! New musical at The Globe asks: How low will Monty go to make it to the top?
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
A talented and versatile cast combined with a witty, though dark, story and visually appealing set make The Old Globe’s “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” a musical worth seeing.
The comedy runs through April 14 and begins with the cast telling audience members to flee before all the bloodshed begins. But the audience should not leave or worry about the killings humorously contrived by Monty Navarro (Broadway veteran Ken Barnett), who is offing his estranged D’Ysquith relatives so he can become the ninth Earl of Highhurst.
The eight male and female relatives — all wonderfully played by Tony Award-winner Jefferson Mays — stand in Monty’s way to fortune. He would be among the aristocracy in early 20th century England except for one unforgiveable error — in the D’Ysquith family’s opinion — committed by his recently deceased mother. She fell in love with and married a Castilian. Therefore, she and her son were disinherited.
Monty learns of his ancestry through his mother’s longtime friend, Miss Shingle (Rachel Izen), who tells him after the funeral about his D’Ysquith relations. Though his initial outreach to the family is innocent (he informs them of his existence and requests assistance in obtaining work) the threatening rebuke by cousin Asquith D’Ysquith Jr., combined with a taunting comment by riches-seeking girlfriend Sibella Hallward (Lisa O’Hare) set Monty on a course of murder so he can ascend to ownership of the family’s estate.
Almost all the killings occur in the first act, which makes it a tad long at around 90 minutes. The second act concludes in an hour and seems to move at a faster pace. Though it is revealed early on that Monty is being tried for murder, there is a mystery: Which relative is he accused of killing? And is it a death for which he is responsible?
While Monty is a cold-blooded killer, Barnett portrays him in such a sympathetic way the audience wants him to succeed. Plus, the deaths are so creative and comical that one cannot help but look forward to seeing how the next unfolds.
As for Mays playing all the deceased, he shows off his versatility. At times, mere minutes separate the distinct personas.
Other notable performances include O’Hare as Sibella and Chilina Kennedy as cousin Phoebe D’Ysquith — who luckily is behind Monty in the line of succession and therefore safe from his murderous intentions. Together, they create the show’s love triangle. Both women play their roles convincingly — materialistic and self-absorbed in Sibella’s case, reserved and ladylike in Phoebe’s — and with Monty, they stage one of the show’s best numbers — “I’ve Decided to Marry You.”
In addition to the performances, the set designed by Alexander Dodge deserves mention. Reflective of music halls popular at the time, a stage has been built onto the stage, creating a venue for the various scenes, increasing the audience’s feeling that it is watching a show unfold, and giving Monty the ability to step away from the action and address the audience directly. The technique is very effective and allows for quick scene changes while action continues on the main stage.
— — — ”A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is on the Shiley Stage at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park, matinees and evenings through April 14. Tickets from $39. Box office: (619) 234-5623; TheOldGlobe.org
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