A young, diverse cast delivers comedic performances as Faust Theatre presents the 3-time Tony winning Kansas City debut of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” at The Arts Asylum.
The musical farce, set in the early 1900s in England tells the story of a poor man who learns his unknown ancestry means he stands in line to be an English Earl. But, that claim to the title appears out of reach because eight others precede his claim to the earldom. Amazingly, after Monty learns of his ancestry, those before him start dying under strange circumstances.
Faust Theatre secured the rights to “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” within hours of availability for community theatre productions. Zach Faust said that when he saw the show on Broadway, he called Daniel Verschelden during intermission to tell him of his desire for them to do the show. And now, they do in the Kansas City debut of the musical comedy. Obviously, the Broadway show needed downsized for the confines of community theatre and the small Arts Asylum venue. Credit Faust Theatre for discovering the way to downsize yet retain the comedic nature of the musical comedy.
Rest assured, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” remains funny from opening scenes through curtain call. The show guarantees laughs throughout and the quirky characters elicit laughs with the demise of all the distant cousins as Monty climbs the ladder to his earldom.
Those fans of Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote fame know that when Ms. Fletcher comes to visit, someone dies. Similarly, when Monty comes nearby, strange deaths continue occurring. But, these deaths take a comedic turn as all eight of the soon-to-be-deceased relatives are played by the same actor. Zach Faust portrays all eight of the extreme relatives, each with a distinctly different temperament, costume, flaws, and personality.
Part of the enjoyment of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is the multiple characters portrayed by Zach Faust. The performance of the ever-perspiring Monty (Daniel Verschelden) anchors the story-line with his delivery, his cunning, and his plan to secure his noble status. Also, the contrast of a blonde and brunette love interest (Kelly Urschel as Sibella and Mackenna Milbourn as Phoebe) just adds to the fun. Along with their contrasting personas, both possess beautiful vocal skills and a comedic flair. The comedy of this piece depends on the four main characters and their interactions. All are wonderfully talented.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” marks Bree Patterson’s directorial debut. “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” comes from the book by Robert L. Freedman with music by Steven Lutvak and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak.
“Too often, we focus on the darkness in our everyday lives,” Patterson said. “It’s become second nature to do so, and in turn, we forget to laugh about the things that we experience. With this show, laughter brings levity and lightness –even if it means quite literally getting a little blood on our hands. I hope this show brings you happiness, that lost jolt of energy, and two hours of light through any darkness that you may be experiencing.”
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” features Daniel Verschelden as Monty Navarro, Kelly Urschel as Sibella, Mackenna Milbourn as Phoebe, Zach Faust as the D’Ysquith Family (all of them), and Catie Wolff as Miss Shingle. The ensemble is: Randall Jackson, Zoe Lepper, Shantice White, Julianna McCarroll, Zaid Umar, Karydan Elkins, Abby Wolff, Jeremy Ragland, Jacque Davidson, and Charlie Meacham.
The only problems detected was in sound as none of the performers wore microphones. Those lines on the opposite sides of the stage were sometimes difficult to hear. So, to audiences, crowd as close to the center as possible for best sound. At times the lighting was a bit awkward and some scenes were not lit well. That also can be corrected.
Overall, the production delivers fun and games. No serious message can be found in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” as the show is purely silliness, and fluff. The young cast knows and understands the comic lines and delivers them with their own personal touches. Comedy is not as easy as drama to perform, and this cast understands what it takes to be funny.
The production team includes Caleb McCarroll, music director; Ashley Burns, stage manager; Mia Valentine, production, assistant; Nicole Green, dialect coach; Erin Gilmore, pedagogy coach; Brady Reed, lighting designer; Lily Nichol, choreographer; Lydnsay Yates and Cassie Hopp, costume designers; Brad Sievers, sound designer; Rachel Kirby, makeup designer; Elisa Grace Davis, wardrobe mistress; Kali Coates, wardrobe crew; Ethan Schreiber, properties master; Reily Harker , run crew leader; Maggie Dunn, Zoey Davis, Ben Smith, run crew; Alec Bridges, assistant sound operator.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” runs June 18 – 30 the Arts Asylum, 1000 E. 9th Street, Kansas City, MO 64106. For more information, go to the Faust Theatre website. www.fausttheatre.com.
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