Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Arizona Broadway Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's reviews of Sleeping Giant and The School for Lies

Kelsey Seaman, Ryan Michael Crimmins,
and Katie Scarlett Swaney

Photo by Alexxis Grant, Timeless Present Photos
Full of witty humor, eccentric characters, and catchy tunes, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder is a delightful and funny musical romp through the world of English high society. Arizona Broadway Theatre's production features a talented cast who have impeccable vocals and while the peculiar nature of the characters could be more distinguished to provide even more comical charm, it still results in a solid production of this Tony-winning Best Musical.

Set in Edwardian England, the musical follows the misadventures of Monty Navarro. When his mother dies, Monty discovers that he is a distant heir to a noble family, the D'Ysquiths, and that his path to inheritance is blocked by eight other relatives standing between him and the coveted title of Earl. With cunning and charm, Monty sets out on a quest for status and recognition by eliminating his rivals one by one as a way to make amends for the way they treated his mother, all while navigating the complexities of love and loyalty.

Based on Roy Horniman's novel "Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal," the musical adaptation offers a deliciously witty and fast-paced journey through the antics of its characters. Robert L. Freedman's clever, Tony-winning book presents a series of vignettes that are both funny and smart, while the Tony-nominated score, with Steven Lutvak's music and Freedman and Lutvak's comically rich lyrics that feature some exceptional rhymes, evoke the spirit of Stephen Sondheim and Gilbert and Sullivan. Although it may take a couple of scenes for the show to fully hit its stride, once it does, and Monty's killing spree is off and running, it's quite comical and engaging.

Monty's journey leads him down a dark and hilarious path of deception and deceit, and the handsome and talented Ryan Michael Crimmins does a good job in depicting the crazy antics Monty goes through in order to ascend his way up the family ladder. Crimmins' clear voice excels on his many songs with bright, clear and crisp notes and his portrayal makes Monty quite an irresistible protagonist. However, I wish there were a touch more of a permanent wink in Crimmins' eye and an almost always present mischievous grin on his face to establish a direct connection with the audience so we clearly see that there is a huge dose of lovable charm and infectious ingenuity underneath Monty's comical, killing-spree exterior.

As every member of the D'Ysquith family, James Schultz is delivering a standout performance. With some costume changes that only last a few seconds, Schultz rapidly creates eight unique characters with distinct voices, gestures and mannerisms. His singing voice is exceptional and his connection with Crimmins and the rest of the cast is genuine. As the two women Monty falls in love with, Kelsey Seaman and Katie Scarlett Swaney are exceptional, with bright portrayals and voices that are sublime. Katelyn Lauria is very fun as the woman who clues Monty in to the truth about his family tree, and the eight-member ensemble create many engaging characters throughout, including Kimberly Abrams who is an absolute riot as the wife of one of Monty's relatives.

Danny Gorman's direction is playful and his staging makes good use of Christian Fleming's gorgeous set design, which features two upper-level boxes and several colorful and creative projections by Chris Ignacio. While Gorman's choreography is crisp and danced well by the cast, his direction could benefit from tighter pacing and stronger physical comedy to maximize the comedic impact and the eccentricities of the characters. Jose Santiago's lighting is gorgeous, and the sound design by Jesse Worley is clear and rich. Steve Zumbrun's music direction delivers rich vocals from the cast and bright notes from the 10-piece orchestra.

While the plot of A Gentleman's Guide is fun and entertaining, the humor in ABT's production could be a bit more distinct. That being said, the musical's charm and wit and the wonderful singing voices from the cast make up for many of these small shortcomings. With its clever plotting, memorable characters, and exceptionally witty tunes, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder is a delightful musical comedy treat.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder runs through June 1, 2024 at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane in Peoria AZ. For tickets and information, please visit call 623-776-8400.

Director and Choreography: Danny Gorman
Music Direction: Steve Zumbrun
Scenic Design: Christian Fleming
Lighting Design: Jose Santiago
Based on Original Costume Designs by: Linda Cho
Sound Design: Jesse Worley
Wig Design/Coordination: Chris Zizzo
Props Design: Jess Lyon
Media Design: Chris Ignacio
Production Stage Management: Nico Rossetti
Artistic Director: Kurtis W. Overby
Executive Producer: Kiel Klaphake
Casting and Artistic Producer: Cassandra Klaphake

Monty Navarro: Ryan Michael Crimmins
Miss Shingle: Katelyn Lauria
Sibella Hallward: Kelsey Seaman
The D’Ysquith Family: James Schultz
Phoebe D’Ysquith: Katie Scarlett Swaney
Tour Guide/Woman 1: Temperance Jones
Lady Eugenia D’Ysquith/Woman 2: Kimberly Abrams
Evangeline Barley/Woman 3: Sophie Rapiejko
Woman 4: Erin Burtchaell
Tom Copley/Man 1: Henrique Sobrinho
Chief Inspector Pinkley/Man 2: Adam C. Hainsel
Magistrate/Man 3: Tyler Gallaher
Man 4: Zach Mitchell