Greed, love, rejection and acceptance are one man’s total obsession in this tale brought to life at the Popejoy Hall stage Thursday.
Tony Award-winning Broadway Musical, “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder,” travels to the Edwardian era and explores the life of a simple, poor man named Monty D’Ysquith Navarro.
Playwright Robert Freedman and author Steve Lutvak were motivated by the allegory of Roy Horniman’s 1907 novel, “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal,” and the film, “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” to create a sinister, yet entertaining climb of one man’s creative flight for recognition and wealth through murder and deception. Freedman and Lutvak wrote a completely new storyline with fresh new characters to make the musical comical and entertaining for the family, according to press releases.
Navarro is a young man who is given the truth of his lineage and wealth to the aristocratic family D’Ysquith, but there is one major challenge — eight other D’Ysquiths must die off before he inherits the earldom of Highhurst. Controversy follows each of the D’Ysquith’s deaths and Navarro gets caught up in the truth; however, Navarro finds himself fooled, as well.
Love haunts the young D’Ysquith when he is rejected for his lack of wealth and community status; yet he is overwhelmed by two ladies when he is suddenly one of the discovered heirs to Highhurst. One woman loves him; the other is only concerned with his status.
According to Ryne Nardecchia, the understudy for Navarro, audiences will be delighted by Navarro’s determination for trickery, through a taste of the macabre, as he will do anything to achieve the status and wealth he believed is his, because it is outlined in comedy.
Nardecchia was chosen as Navarro’s understudy and dance director for his ability to adapt quickly.
“They needed people they could speak in shorthand to,” he said.
“The show is very funny, but very dark, and there’s humor in very morbid (instances),” Nardecchia said.
The opening scene is a warning to the audience telling them the show they will be viewing is very dark, but that’s what makes it funny and lets people know that it is a comedy, he said.
“I remember watching it for the first time...How was the next one going to die? It became this morbid (anticipation) one you look forward too,” Nardecchia said.
Though the show begins with Monty as a common man, Nardecchia agreed that Monty got a real thirst for blood, as he gets away with murder and moves up the line of succession in the D’Ysquith lineage.
Beautiful, lavish scenery and costumes set the stage in this musical whirlwind performance full of color, laughter and surprises, as the actors change costumes right before the audience.
The costumes utilized are from the original award-winning Broadway show, Nardecchia said.
Spectators will see an actor change into another relative in almost a blink of an eye.
“It’s got a lot of really neat gimmicks to it, like nothing else I have never seen to begin with or been a part of. It’s impressive to watch,” Nardecchia said. “One of our main actors...James, who plays the D’Ysquith family, portrays every single member in this eight-person family... He’s incredibly talented...He fluctuates from different characters, in a moment’s notice, jumps scene in one costume and comes back immediately after in 17 seconds later in a full new costume, different character.”
Diverse cultures reacted in different ways to the controversial content of the show, said Nardecchia.
Though these actors are showcasing this play in different areas of the United States, the director didn’t change the way the actors performed their characters in order to be understood by a variety of audiences or cultures, he said.
“We give the same performance to every place that we go to, which screens itself, because you will see how people react to different things. Some places will find certain things funny, some places won’t, but they’ll find other moments of the show hysterical,” Nardecchia said.
According to Broadway Director Darko Tresnjak, the musical is put together in a comical production with each of the family members being unlikeable.
“A, they’re horrible people, the whole family that he kills — they’re all awful, one after the other, in different ways.
B, it just means he’ll be back as another delightful characterization, so the audience looks forward to it. I thought, ‘It’s the perfect antidote to holiday entertainment. Everyone wants to murder their family,’” Tresnjak said.
“A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder,” will be performed at Popejoy Hall from Dec. 7 to Dec. 10.
Anyone interested in learning more can go to popejoypresents.com.
Sherri Barth is a volunteer sports and culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @SherriJBarth23.