The lights dim, and the audience’s attention moves to a frame made of gold columns, which creates the perspective that there is a moving picture on Kingsbury Hall’s larger stage. Live music begins to pour from the orchestra pit.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is about to begin.
On the stage, a spotlight focuses on Monty Navarro (performed by Kevin Massey), standing in front of the picture-framed stage. He’s writing in a diary, explaining in a voiceover that the audience is going to see a retelling of his efforts to attain a position in the nobility far above his humble origins, which led to his current imprisonment.
At this point it’s hard to believe his arrest is for anything other than murder, since he titles his diary “A Gentleman’s Guide to Murder” — no, wait, that’s not right, he says, it should be called “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” Much better.
The lights move to the smaller framed stage, and the action takes off. For the majority of the two-and-a-half hour play, audience members enjoy deep, from-the-belly guffaws as Navarro works his way through killing everyone in the noble D’Ysquith family (who all look strikingly similar, probably because each one is played by John Rapson) who stand between him and the title of Earl. All the while, Navarro has to maintain relationships with both a mistress and a fiancé. Through hilarious wordplay, mocking musical numbers and the use of a green screen to add all sorts of scenes within the framed stage, the play captures the audience’s attention and refuses to let it go until the curtain falls at the end. Even then, the show is hard to shake off, with its music playing in the audience’s memory days afterwards.
A few of the numbers are a bit insensitive to a few communities, which does take away from the overall magic of the show. But the majority of this production is the perfect remedy for mid-semester blues.
Each actor does their part spectacularly, pulling off the play’s laughs and complex musical numbers as if it were as easy as just speaking. The production’s flawlessness seems impossible, but somehow it happened and it will continue to happen until the show packs up and moves on after their final performance at Kingsbury on March 6.
Tickets are not cheap, and after seeing the complexity and sheer brilliance of the show, that isn’t surprising. For specific ticketing information, visit http://tickets.utah.edu/events/a-gentlemans-guide-to-love-and-murder/.