After its debut in Connecticut in 2012, A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER soon moved to Broadway in 2013, where it ran for two years and won four Tony Awards (among others), including for best musical. Based on a 1907 novel by Roy Horniman titled “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal,” which had been the basis for the 1949 British film, “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER features book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak, who died only a month ago. This clever and very funny play returns to Los Angeles in 2023 at the Westchester Playhouse.
Lyndsay Palmer and Aric Martin – Photo by Gloria Plunkett
The D’Ysquith family is wealthy, aristocratic, and rather non-forgiving. It seems that Isabel D’Ysquith was disowned by the family when she ran off with a Spanish musician. Her son, Montague Navarro (Aric Martin), and Isabel lived together in near-poverty until her death, when Miss Shingle (Elizabeth Bouton Summerer), a woman with vague connections to Isabel, tells Monty about his true heritage: he is part of the D’Ysquith clan. The head of the distinguished House D’Ysquith is also the Earl of Highhurst – and Monty is ninth in line to the earldom. Meanwhile, Monty is hopelessly in love with Sibella Howard (Amy Coles), but the stunning and cunning Ms. Howard has told Monty in no uncertain terms that he simply hasn’t enough money or prospects for her and that she plans to marry a well-heeled banker. As Monty considers his sad fate, he comes up with a plan to go from a poor, lowly clerk to the Earl of Highhurst himself. The play outlines his steps towards his goal. Heaven help the eight D’Ysquiths before him in the line of succession.
Aric Martin and Jon Sparks – Photo by Gloria Plunkett
Brilliantly directed by Catherine Rahm, A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER moves along quickly as a combination farce/melodrama/comedy/ musical to keep the audience glued to their seats as they laugh themselves silly. This is no easy play to produce, and the talented cast is up to the task. Kudos to Martin, Coles, Lyndsay Palmer (Phoebe D’Ysquith), and all the D’Ysquith family members (Jon Sparks). The show is a hugely successful team effort – and, besides, they can really sing. The musical is double cast (Love and Murder casts); and this reviewer saw the Love cast, which did an excellent job.
Amy Coles and Aric Martin – Photo by Gloria Plunkett
Let’s not forget the production team members, who are also responsible for making this a memorable show. Red Rahm’s set is clever and quickly changeable. Kim Peterson’ and Doug Vasquez’ costumes and Jon Sparks’ wigs help the cast members become part of the era. Michael Thorpe’s lighting and Susan Stangl’s sound do justice to the musical, as does Alison Boole’s choreography.
Aric Martin (center) – Photo by Gloria Plunkett
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a good laugh; get ready to chuckle and chortle at this delightful tale. A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER was produced several years ago at the Los Angeles Music Center, and they did a splendid job of it. The Kentwood Players, a small community theater composed primarily of passionate volunteers with far fewer resources, have proven that it is possible to create a terrific musical comedy if the script is right and the participants give their all. Don’t miss this production.
Cast of A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER – Photo by Gloria Plunkett
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER runs through December 9, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays (Saturday matinee added at 2 p.m. on 11/18 and continues through until closing; no performances on 11/24, 11/25, and 11/26). The Kentwood Players perform at the Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90045. Tickets are $30 ($4 discount for seniors and students; $24 group rates for 10 or more; $10 rush tickets on Saturday 11/18 at 1:30 p.m. for the 2 p.m. performance that day only). For information and reservations, call 310-645-5156, bo*******@ke*************.org">email the box off, or go online.