By Hannah Hacking Brown
At the Skyridge Auditorium in Lehi, Reglao Theater Company‘s A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder easily meets high expectations. This play by Steven Lutvak and Robert L. Freedman is based on the novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal. It first performed in 2012, premiered on Broadway in 2013, ran until 2016, and won four Tony awards in 2014 and was nominated for six more. I once saw the touring Broadway company perform it and it’s my theater director mother-in-law’s favorite modern show, so my default is to have high hopes\
After the death of his mother, Monty Nevarro (Evan Meigs) learns from Ms. Shingle (Tina Fontana). an old friend of hers, that she was a disowned member of the wealthy noble D’Ysquith family, and he is actually in line to be the next Earl of Highhurst. After his letter to a member of the family is met with dismissal and threats, he stumbles on an opportunity to let a family member ahead of him in the succession line die. He comes to a realization and decides to murder his way into the title.
The whole cast is truly impressive. In an embodiment of the old adage that “the show must go on,” Meigs stepped up to take on the role of Monty at the last minute when the person in that role, Jake Hart, fell ill, and “go on” he did in spectacular fashion! I was floored by how well he fit into the role, as if he’s been practicing it for months. Watching the show, you’d never realize he was asked to take the part just fifteen minutes before curtain on opening night.
Christ Last plays my favorite part (and by part, I really mean parts): the D’Ysquith family. That’s right, he plays all eight D’Ysquiths who stand between Monty and earldom (and even one who’s not!), and he expertly distinguishes them. Obviously the intricate and unique costumes (done by Brooke Holahan with the assistance of Amy Handy) helped, but Last gave each character their own physicality, mannerisms, and vocal inflections that set them apart from each other. And speaking of those incredible costumes, a shoutout must go to Last’s dressers: Handy, Jaden Grill, Adelheid Saunders, and Emily Griffith. Those costumes were complex and some of the turnaround times between costumes were real short.
Leading the show beside Monty and the D’Ysquiths are Monty’s two love interests: the passionate and ambitious Sibella (Joy Austin), who brings a powerful command of the stage to the role, and the innocent and kind Phoebe (Brittni Smith) with an air of poise and elegance.
Backing up the leads is a stellar ensemble, each with their own shining moments. Cameron Smith’s facial expressions and movements drew my attention through both major ensemble songs and the scene in the gym right before the fifth D’Ysquith death, not to mention his killer solo in “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying?” Kelli Smith and Andrew Mortensen also command solos expertly as singing portraits in “I Don’t Understand the Poor.” In addition to her work on the costumes, Holahan also plays the one non-D’Ysquith to die as well as the final D’Ysquith’s wife and she is an utter delight to watch. I found myself watching her more closely than the lead characters in both those scenes. “Better With A Man” is already a hilarious song full of double meanings, but Chloe Coleman’s reactions as the barmaid behind the singing men make it twice as funny. Tina Fontana sets the tone for the show very well as the first over-the-top character we see, Mrs. Shingle. And much like Last, Robert Bahr also impressed me with the variation between his various ensemble characters.
Director Michael Carrasco certainly brings the best out of his team for this show. The blocking is natural and unobtrusive, the various elements blended together smoothly, and he even stepped in to play Meig’s original parts, including the inspector at the end.
I was surprised to read that this was Shelby Algaier-Horton’s first time being head choreographer for a musical because the choreography was interesting and fun to watch.
My mother-in-law’s love for this show stems from its very classic musical leanings, harking stylistically back to the era of Carousel and Camelot, and under the direction of musical director Allison Books, the cast executed that style perfectly.
For the set (constructed by Carrasco and Andy Oliverson and painted by Madison Fontana), the production follows the same design as the original premiere of the show by building a smaller stage on top of the stage, curtains and all, and a screen at the back of it to show various projections throughout the show.
The most notable light cue (light design by Elizabeth Griffiths) happens when Monty goes to kiss either Sibella or Phoebe. The lights begin fluctuating colors and a special sound cue (sound design by Jason Young), and the couple stands at least a foot apart, eyes closed, lips puckered, and arms flailing, adding another level of absurdity to the show.
The show is in the Skyridge Auditorium, which means plenty of parking and plenty of seating. Regalo even manages to make intermission fun with two on-theme games in the lobby (an iSpy of Monty’s Murder Methods and a Can You Get Away With Murder choices flowchart) and a D’Ysquith family tree that changes to reflect the deaths of the first act (and again to reflect the second act after the show).
Adults with a bit of a dark sense of humor will adore this show, but I don’t recommend bringing young children unless you’re ready to explain why the projection turns into a growing blood stain as the first D’Ysquith “falls” to his death, why another D’Ysquith’s head falls off, or why the audience laughs more with each onstage death.
All-in-all, I adore this show, and I absolutely recommend seeing this version of it (in fact, my husband and I are planning to go again before the run ends!)
Regalo Theater Company presents A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder by Steven Lutvak and Robert L. Freedman.
Skyridge Auditorium 3000 N Center St, Lehi, Ut, 84043
Jan 8-20, 2024 at 7:30 PM with a matinee performance on Jan 20 at 2:00 PM
Tickets: $15 for adults and $10 for children (under 18) and seniors (65+)
Regalo Theater Company Website