Mike Woody review 'A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder' - now at LaComedia Dinner Theatre through September 19.
Occasionally an individual performance outranks all other aspects of the show. The plot, set design, choreography, costumes and sound can all be stellar, but still overshadowed by an actors captivating showmanship. ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder’ at La Comedia Dinner Theatre is an extremely rare case in which two such performances fit that description. There’s a lot of positives, but they all revolve around the standout talents of two cast members.
Tyler Perry has nothing on Chris Beiser, who not only serves as the director but also plays multiple parts. To say that Beiser wears several hats would be accurate, but also selling him short. As Mathilde err the D’Ysquith Family, Beiser shows his impressive range. He plays eight different characters, including an inebriated pastor, a flamboyant beekeeper and a flatulent weight lifter. To portray one memorable role is a chore, to do eight is a monumental task and Beiser seemingly does it with ease. There’s much to admire about Beiser’s performance, especially the speed of his elaborate costume changes. He changes costumes faster than the CDC changes its health guidelines.
While David Thomas only plays one role, I still feel that this show was planned around him. The part of Monty Navarro is a very demanding role requiring high energy, physical comedy, fast talking and strong vocals. Thomas checks off every square on the list and something about him radiates instant like ability. It’s a credit to Thomas that as impressive as Beiser is, I consider Thomas as the top star.
Set in 1908, England, an impoverished Navarro discovers he’s ninth in line to inherit the earldom of Highhurst and all of its riches. To speed up the process, Navarro plays a hand in the demise of the eight D’Ysquith’s ahead of them. Each of the eight are the roles played by Beiser.
It’s ‘A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder,’ the Love includes Sibella, played by Katie Ann Bonavita, returning after most recently being Ariel. Navarro and Sibella have a relationship that’s best described as ‘It’s Complicated.’ The complications grow with the inclusion of Phoebe (Hannah Hensler). The love triangle reaches a crescendo in a brilliant scene that highlights Thomas’ talents as he’s literally caught between the two and rapidly goes back and forth trying to keep them unaware of the other.
The ensemble includes some of La Comedia’s All-Stars such as Karie-Lee Sutherland, Digger Howard, and last but not least Chris Kramer. You know it’s a loaded cast, when Kramer is a backup dancer. Special mention to the always reliable Colin Cranstoun. I had somehow never noticed how low his voice is before. Allison Gabert and Tina Shatto round out the spectacular cast.
I also applaud the set design, particularly for the use of a screen that provides most of the backdrops. It’s visually appealing and allows for faster scene changes.
There’s no denying that the show is different than most of La Comedia’s offerings. It’s also not a very well known show, despite winning the Tony for Best Musical in 2014. There is more comfort in attending a show you are familiar with. However, it’s also nice to go in blind once in awhile and be surprised. It’s a surprise how enjoyable ‘A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder’ is. The show continues through September 19.