A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love & Murder

photo Albany Civic Theater

I greatly anticipated this show, as I love a good murder and a good musical, so I chose not to do any more research– other than the basic plot– before seeing it. Which I’m glad I did. It was fun, vocals were stellar, and the timing was on point. Let’s get to the plot and the execution (lol). I promise, no spoilers…

Monty Navarro, played opening night by Colby Montigue (double cast with Clayton Hollingsworth–both of whom play double duty as Tom Copley), is low on the status pole when his mother passes away and he finds out he’s actually the 8th person in line for the D’Ysquith Family Earldom. Monty is in love with Sibella, played by Samantha Johnson (double cast with Alyson Fewless) who is in love with money and status. Sibella casually mentions to Monty the eight D’Ysquith’s would have to die before Monty gets a shot at being an Earl and a forever with Sibella. Thus, the murderous plot begins to hilarious ends. As he “moves” up the ladder, ahem, he meets Phoebe D’Ysquith, played by Karen Kumley, Monty’s cousin whom he has immediate chemistry with but luckily doesn’t have to do away with to become an Earl. The entire eight member D’Ysquith family is played single-handedly by Dean Keeling. Monty manages to make it to Earldom but not without mishaps and threat of exposure. The cast is rounded out with Jillian Griffith playing Miss Shingle, the one who tells Monty who he really is; Kasper O’Neill playing Miss Barley–a lady of “companionship” to one of the heirs– and Lady Eugenia–Lord D’Ysquith’s wife; Bill Brown as the Magistrate; Jacob Birchard as the Inspector; and Jakob Holden as the Tour Guide. The chorus cast includes Barbara Hogan, Drew May, Alice Tucker, and Michael Yuan.

My audience perspective: A fun show. High energy, cheeky music and book, easy to follow, and 8 hilarious, and yet unfortunate, ways to die. A musical treat!

My technical perspective: An almost perfect show. Directors Ken Long and Timothy John Kelley II stay true to the original format of the show with just enough scaled down to fit the space of ACT. Set design by John Sams mimics the larger Broadway version scaled down to fit the ACT stage without losing the show’s charm. Projection team, Laura Blackwell and Kimberly Kelley, stay true to the Broadway version using projection to assist with location and circumstances which support the many deaths in perfect fashion. Light design by Loriann Schmidt almost hit the mark with this show. I know how hard it is to light the front and corners; however, it’s possible there and I saw moments–glorious moments– when it was perfect. Unfortunately, it wasn’t consistent. There are times when the curtain is closed and everything (one) on the apron is well lit, then when the curtain opens everything (one) still on the apron has to navigate between the dark and light spots and vice versa. I caught myself watching the light fixtures go on and off and thinking to myself, “Why don’t they keep them on?” During “That Horrible Woman” in Act 2 was especially difficult. Such an important moment which starts well lit until Sibella and Phoebe–both on opposite sides of the stage– stand up and end up with their faces half lit. Don’t they see this during tech week? Sound and effects design by Jimbo Ivy. A birdie told me during intermission, the team worked for two weeks to get the sound mixed properly. You do not know how happy I was when the show started and the orchestra was perfectly mixed with the vocals. (A major problem I had with Mamma Mia!) A huge improvement from previous shows which is vital for musicals. Especially with the complex vocals and range required for this show. Speaking of the vocals, led by vocal director Kimberly Kelley, everyone was on point, clear in enunciation, the vocal range of the performers was gorgeous, and never sounded strained or held back. The right mics make all the difference. This show requires falsetto and delicate notes to land delicately and without proper support it can be real bad for everyone. Emotion was well translated through the vocals which made the overall camp of the show solid. The orchestra led by Erica Epperley could be heard in all its glory! Yay! Super fun score and so happy to have been able to hear it clearly. Choreographers Carrie Adella Forty and Jessica Urey did well in staging the sequences cleanly and closely to the Broadway version. If it ain’t broke… Costume design by Sandee Ferguson and Lavelle Grandy-Brown, with assistance from Deborah Madden and Erah McMullen, was on point. Everything looked well pressed and fit the cast well. I love the structure of this time period as well as the fun campy pieces which add so much to the characters. Props by Kimberly Kelley and Mackenzie Wang were plentiful and perfectly suited for the show. Hair and makeup by Olivia Shelby and Stephanie Lunceford, with assistance from Stephanie Marie and Kristina Lynn Reynolds, was well executed and suited for each character. Technical director Rick Hammel had a pretty full plate keeping this running smoothly, I’m sure, which he did very well from where I was sitting. Dean Keeling has his own crew back stage with his many costume quick changes who should be mentioned because without their dedication and speed, this would have been a much different show… They include Josie Davis, Rachel Stephens, Colleen Franzoia, Bob Brown, and Ry Schuerger. There are a lot of people listed in the program and probably a whole lot more who aren’t. This was definitely a community effort and it was superbly done.

People involved should feel very proud of their work on this show. It’s solid. It’s funny. The vocals are killer and so is Monty… For tickets and showtimes, visit the ACT website HERE. The show runs now until February 8th, 2020.

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