After a lifetime of believing he was a humble nobody, Montague “Monty” Navarro learns he is a long-lost member of the D’Ysquith family and the 9th in line for the family earldom. Determined to seek revenge for being kept in the shadows for so long while elevating his station at the same time, Monty sets upon the task of shortening the distance between him and the title. Based on the novel by Roy Horniman with book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder at the Little Theatre of Alexandria is a comedic romp through the lines of succession and love.
In the social climbing lead was Drew Goins as Monty. A playful, often delicate tenor voice with an expressive face, Goins’ Monty focused on his situational luck in each advancement rather than on any diabolical or strategic master plan. “Foolish to Think” and “Stop! Wait! What?!” were highlights for his character as he swung wildly from steely determination to nervous hesitancy in deciding what to do next with the situation at hand in order to advance.
Often paired with Monty in love and scheming was the self-infatuated Sibella, played by Katie Weigl. Looking lovely in pink (get it?) from the very start, Sibella’s ladder climbing, flirty self-centeredness toyed with Monty’s heart and position in “I Don’t Know What I’d Do.” In “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” Weigl flashed all of Sibella’s conflicting sides before the audience in rapid, comedic succession.
The third and final side of the Monty Love Triangle was the delightful Phoebe D’Ysquith, played by Alexandra Chace. From “Inside Out,” where she boldly dreams of a more connected world, to the aforementioned and hilarious “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” Chace as Phoebe was the shining light of the production. Her lyrical, classical soprano soared with a demure confidence that was perfect for Phoebe’s independent and yet constricted spirit.
Playing all of the D’Ysquith family heirs between Monty and the earldom was Chuck Dluhy as Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr., Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith, Reverend Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith, Lord Asquith D’Ysquith, Sr., Henry D’Ysquith, Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith, Major Lord Bartholomew D’Ysquith, Lady Salome D’Ysquith Pumphrey, and Chauncey D’Ysquith. Tackling an enormous task of logistics, not to mention character acting, Dluhy pushed each role to a caricature of what we Americans think of as the personalities of the British upper crust. “Poison in My Pocket” and “Looking Down the Barrel of the Gun” were standouts of Dluhy’s ability to use farce to push his characters to their ultimate demise.
The rest of the show’s many parts were played by Kristin Jepperson as Miss Shingle and the 6-person ensemble: Audrey Baker, Devin Dietrich, Derek Marsh, Allison Meyer, Jordan Peyer, and Margie Remmers. Trading hats, accents, and dispositions continually throughout the production, the ensemble (and in particular Meyer and Baker) played an amusing balance of exacerbation and physical comedy that was a fun thread to trace throughout.
Offstage, the production team at Little Theatre of Alexandria was creative with how they brought the many locations and characters of the show to the stage. Direction by Frank D. Shutts II kept a good rhythm in concert with the choreography by Stefan Sittig and music direction of Christopher A. Tomasino. The set work by Matt Liptak gave this ridiculous musical comedy a thriftily-stylized backdrop, which was enhanced by set decoration by Myke Taister and costume design by Jean Schlicting and Kit Sibley. Unfortunately, the sound balance of the production was off for a good portion of the evening, making it difficult to hear soloists against the chorus and the vocals against the orchestra, which did detract from the story.
A difficult show to pull off given its demanding vocal parts and daunting staging requirements, this production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder at the Little Theatre of Alexandria was a lighthearted—even though deadly—evening of local theater with moments of chuckles, laughs, and guffaws. As a fan of physical comedy, outlandish situations, and some good old-fashioned murder, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder will have me checking my back and drink for days to come.
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder runs through February 8, 2020, at the Little Theatre of Alexandria – 600 Wolfe St, Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 683-0496 or purchase them online.
Disclaimer: There is a strobe light used during this production.