(Cover Photo: The CAST of the musical, "A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER" by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, from Greater Worcester Opera now playing through June 11, 2023 at Calliope Productions in Boylston, MA. Photo Credit Paige Fowler)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
“You see the fate of a man who has had the misfortune to spend his life caught in your sway."
- Robert L. Freedman / Steven Lutvak
Book and Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman
Music and Lyrics by Steven Lutvak
Based on a Novel by Roy Horniman
Stage and Music Directed by Aldo Fabrizi
Cast Includes: Taylor Lawton – Montague “Monty” D’Ysquith Navarro; Benjamin Morse - The D’Ysquith Family; Heidi White - Sibella Holland (nee Hallward); Elaine Crane - Phoebe D’Ysquith; Martha Warren - Marietta Shingle; Betsy Fiedler - Woman # 1 (Tour Guide, Mourner, Skater, Pub Owner’s Wife, Mrs. Pebworth, Sibella’s Maid, Selina Chard); Kathy Lague – Woman # 2 (Lady Eugenia D’Ysquith, Mourner, Ancestral Portrait, Skater, Mrs. Hetherington); Connell Benn – Woman # 3 (Miss Evangeline Barley, Ancestral Portrait, Phoebe’s Maid, Portrait, Miss Hayes, Hilda); Lisa Tierney – Woman # 4 (Sibella/Phoebe Understudy, Mourner, Tourist, Maid, Mrs. Rackshaw); Brad Amidon – Man # 1 (Prison Guard, Tom Copley, Mourner, Ancestral Portrait, Tailor, Second Clerk, Skater, Dr. Brownlee, Weight Lifter, Third Actor, Walter, Dr. Pettibone); Thaddeus Bell – Man # 2 (Chief Inspector Pinckney, Mourner, Tourist, Mr. Cross); Erik Gladwin – Man # 3 (Magistrate, Mourner, Ancestral Portrait, Skater, Tailor, First Clerk, Pub Patron, Mr. Goodsall, Second Actor, Alfred Gorby); Santo Mammone – Man # 4 (Mourner, Ancestral Portrait, Postman, Skater, Tailor, Pub Owner, Mr. Corcoran, Lord Asquith’s Physician, First Actor, Ancestral Bust, Footman); Chase Sullivan – Newsie; Gabriella Herriott – Newsie; Katelyn Geary – Swing (Woman 1, 2, 3, 4).
Additional Creative Team:
Elaine Crane - Executive Producer, Additional Set Painting, Costume Design, Costume Construction, Wardrobe Coordination and Management, Additional Props, Program Design; Charles Crane - Set Construction, Painting, Recording Engineer and Sound Mixing; Katelyn Geary - Stage Manager; David Vosburgh - Scenic Design; Taylor Lawton - Additional Set Painting; Kathy Booth - Costume Construction; Laura Green - Costume Construction; Pat Kane - Costume Construction; Phyllis Jordan - Costume Construction; Carol Leschke - Costume Construction, Wardrobe Coordination and Management, Hair Design, Wig Dressing and Hair Styling, Additional Props; Sarah Mombourquette - Dresser; Jillian Whitney - Dresser, Hair Styling; Dave Ludt - Lighting Design; Richard Monroe - Music Track Coordination and Running; John Leslie - Front of House Management; Mark Leibold - Props Design and Construction, Stage Crew; Jacqueline Haney - Props Design and Construction, Stage Crew; Paige Fowler - Photography; Connell Benn - Social Media Marketing; The CAST - Makeup Design and Stage Crew.
June 8, 9 & 10, 2023 at 7:30pm
June 11, 2023 at 2:00pm
Calliope Theatre, 150 Main Street, in Boylston, MA.
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Greater Worcester Opera (GWO) presents the deliciously decadent musical farce, “A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER” at Calliope Productions in Boylston.
“GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE” is the epitome of absurdist musical comedy - and everyone in the GWO cast makes sure everyone in the audience is reminded of this fact throughout the show.
Featuring book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and featuring lilting score by Steven Lutvak, “GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE” is based on Roy Horniman’s 1907 novel “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal.”
The GWO staging is based upon the original Broadway production that won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2014.
The score by Freedman and Lutvak tasks the GWO cast with a difficult, intricate assortment of songs, rife with clever (and occasionally tongue-twisting) lyrics - and the GWO cast proves up to the task.
Under Stage and Musical Direction by Aldo Fabrizi, not only is the principal cast funny, they are wonderful singers who are all supported, vocally, by an equally capable ensemble.
Additionally, Fabrizi has provided a fine attention to detail, carefully specified comedic movement on stage and the maximizing of the Calliope space.
All technical elements were obviously well considered and implemented with great care, especially in the area of costumes. The costume plot for "GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE" is enormous and the entire creative team is to be commended for a fine presentation.
For the story of “GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER” - it is England at the start of the last century, approximately 1909.
As the intentionally ludicrous plotline unfolds, impoverished young clerk, Monty Navarro (Taylor Lawton), is intent on committing mass murder for the sole purpose of proving himself financially worthy of marrying the lovely Sibella Hallward (Heidi White).
Lawton is absolutely wonderful as Monty, serving as both narrator and morally obtuse anti-hero.
While supporting in a number of duets, Lawton does impeccable renderings of Monty's own songs, including, "Foolish to Think," "Poison In My Pocket," and "Sibella."
(Photo: Benjamin Morse and Taylor Lawton each experience a hilarious 'fall from grace moment' during the musical, "A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER" from Greater Worcester Opera now playing through June 11, 2023 at Calliope Productions in Boylston, MA. Photo Credit Paige Fowler)
Monty is imprisoned at the start of the show and, though his journal, he regales us with his memories of how fate intervened, on his behalf, yet ultimately leading to his imprisonment and impending execution on the charge...of murder (or...love and murder).
Considering his memoir as more of a "guide,” Monty brings us back to where he meets Miss Shingle (Martha Warren) at his mother's funeral.
In the number, "You're a D'Ysquith," Monty learns from the manipulative Miss Shingle that he is part of the family D’Ysquith and ninth in line to inherit the earldom of Highhurst.
Warren gives a fine performance as the feisty, scheming and delightfully mischievous Miss Shingle.
Monty reels from this revelation of the long-withheld secret of his parentage.
After Shingle "suggests" to Monty that all he would have to do is "remove" certain members in order to stake his claim on the sizeable inheritance, Monty “executes” his plan to eliminate those in line before him.
Sure, Monty is a misguided, misconceived mass murderer - but nobody's perfect. There's just something so lovable about Monty that makes you want to root for him.
As for Monty's "victims?" Don't we root for them, as well?
Nope. As it turns out, with perhaps one notable exception, not so much.
The D'Ysquith family members in Monty's cross-hairs (all played by Benjamin Morse in a diversive, virtuoso "multi-roling" performance) include:
Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith, Eighth Earl of Highhurst; Lord Henry D'Ysquith, his heir; Lord Asquith D'Ysquith Sr.; Asquith D'Ysquith Jr.; the Rev. Lord Ezekial D'Ysquith; Maj. Lord Bartholomew D'Ysquith; Lady Salome D'Ysquith Pumphrey; Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith and Chauncey D'Ysquith.
Morse provides distinguishing characteristics for every single character he plays throughout the show, more often than not making any required costume/wig changes at breakneck speed.
Scene after scene and one by one, Monty meets and is present for the “unfortunate deaths” of these D’Ysquith family members.
Probably one of the funniest scenes involves bees and it is a cleverly constructed scene where Monty meets the attractive Phoebe (Elaine Crane) and is immediately smitten.
As Monty gets closer to Phoebe, he decides that, since Sibella has already chosen to marry another, Phoebe is the perfect choice to be Monty's countess when he becomes earl.
Crane duets with Monty in the song, "Inside Out" then later joins Monty with Sibella in arguably the musical high point of the show, "I've Decided to Marry You."
(Photo: Heidi White as "Sibella," Taylor Lawton as "Monty" and Elaine Crane as "Phoebe" in a scene from the musical, "A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER" by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, from Greater Worcester Opera now playing through June 11, 2023 at Calliope Productions in Boylston, MA. Photo Credit Paige Fowler)
White is wonderfully resolute in her portrayal of Sibella, torn between her love of destitute-but-soon-to-be-rising-star Monty and her dedication to a man who can, now, help her assume what she feels is her rightful place in high society.
Meanwhile, Monty struggles over his desire to achieve his ultimate objective while simultaneously being morally apprehensive to do much of what he must do in order to achieve that objective.
Fortunately, this is where fate tends to repeatedly step in on Monty's behalf.
Each subsequent D'Ysquith Monty meets is more preposterous than the last, adding to some of the show's funniest scenes, especially during some of the D'Ysquith's more "unfortunate" events.
In unique and outlandish ways, and since the D'Ysquith victims are initially revealed as either repugnant or morally ambiguous, their deaths will unlikely result in much, if any, true sorrow.
Additional noteworthy songs include the cautionary, "A Warning to Monty" sung to Monty by members of the ensemble as “Paintings” and "I Don't Understand the Poor," sung by Lord Adalbert (Morse) with the “Paintings.”
Morse, as foppish Henry D'Ysquith, and Lawton are simply riotous together in the sidesplitting duet, "Better With a Man."
A prime example of the well-executed comedic timing comes during the song, "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" sung by Morse as Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith with members of the cast.
(Photo: Elaine Crane, Taylor Lawton and Benjamin Morse as an unfortunate D'Ysquith family member experiencing a 'beesetting' moment during the musical, "A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER" from Greater Worcester Opera now playing through June 11, 2023 at Calliope Productions in Boylston, MA. Photo Credit Paige Fowler)
As the audience anxiously awaits to see if Monty ends up with either Sibella or Phoebe, other D'Ysquith family members continue to meet their untimely, unfortunate and uproarious demises, one after another.
In the end...will Monty get away with it all or will fate, once again, "intervene?"
In GWO's “GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER," the hilarity is virtually non-stop and the music is very much aligned to propel the humor along, which is possibly the show's greatest strength.
The production is only slated for this weekend so definitely try and catch the remaining performances at Calliope in Boylston if you can.
Approximately two and a half hours with one intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
On the night of his mother’s funeral, middle-class Englishman Monty Navarro learns an incredible secret: he is the “son of the daughter of the grandson of nephew of the second Earl of Highhurst.”
In other words, Monty Navarro is an aristocrat -- if he can only find a way to prevent the eight earls preceding him from inheriting the earldom first.
Buoyed along by love for two different women, the stunning and self-centered Sibella and the pious and witty Phoebe, Monty takes on his mission.
As for the D’Ysquith family?
One actor plays each ill-fated member, from the flamboyant country squire to the terrible actress to the aging war hero.
In the witty and ceaselessly entertaining "A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER" the audience is treated to Edwardian style, classic farce, and stunning operatic singing.
"A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE..." combines the best of the past with a contemporary sensibility and humor that earned it the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical. With non-stop laughs, a unique and soaring score, and unforgettable characters, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder has become an instant classic.
ABOUT GREATER WORCESTER OPERA
GREATER WORCESTER OPERA (GWO) is a regional opera company based in Central Massachusetts. A non-profit organization, GWO produces mainstage opera, concerts, touring opera for students, and a variety of other musical events utilizing the talents of the area's finest professionally trained singers and musicians.