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Ever desired to obtain your own earldom? Listen well…
Step 1: Learn your recently deceased mother was a member of the D’ysquith Family meaning you are ninth in line to become an earl.
Step 2: Discover a way to knock off the eight relatives in front of you.
Step 3: Don’t get caught with poison in your pocket!
This past weekend, Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi’s A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder opened at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center for a month-long stay. And what a fabulous production equally capable of rivaling the previous U.S. equity and nonequity national tours. Making its regional debut, this was tremendous fun with an A+ cast, Broadway-caliber voices, and a creative production design befitting the smaller staging.
In case you missed the 2016 and 2017 tours, the show focuses on a young man, living in a shabby Clapham flat, who discovers he is a distant relation to the illustrious D’Ysquith family and ninth in line to the earldom. So he does what any sensible leading character in a musical comedy would do and subsequently eliminates all the competition while romancing his mistress and future wife.
The Leading Men
What makes the show so incredible has to be the insanely talented cast led by Vincent Perez as Monty and Adam Womack as the D’ysquith Family. Perez makes for a dashing Latin leading man who smartly makes the role his own by downplaying the physical comedy and playing up the chemistry with his co-stars. Womack does an excellent job of flitting from character to character (sometimes at breakneck speeds) and giving each man and woman a distinctly different persona. Favorites had to be his turn as gay Henry and the fake philanthropist Lady Hyacinth.
The Leading Ladies
Leading lady Deborah Robin, as Monty’s flirty and narcissistic mistress Sibella, reminds one of a young Rebecca Luker on a high dose of adrenaline but it is younger ingenue Siena Avila as Monty’s cousin Phoebe who steals the show with her angelic soprano and a winsome smile that stretches from ear to ear all the while mellowing down a role that can easily be received as overwhelming and irritating.
The Supporting Cast
Supporting this clever leading cast are an equally talented ensemble made up of local favorites: Sydney Bowers (Miss Shingles), Lenessa Age (Tour Guide), Laura Barrows (Miss Evangeline Barley), MarLee Candell (Lady D’ysquith), Mueen Jahan (Tom Copley), Andy Mattick (Chief Inspector Pinckney), and Gary Saxer (Magistrate) who could each likely hold their own in the lead roles. And they were all well supported by the live pit orchestra.
The Creative Team
Director/Designer Will Shupe does a fabulous job with the community theatre’s limited budget and a tiny stage. Many of the murder scenes are cleverly redone so that Rhyne’s award-winning projection design is not missed. Two personal favorites include the murders of Asquith Jr. and Henry. Shupe also creatively used a curtained off stage within the stage to allow for fast scene changes (albeit one during the act one finale).
My main regrets on Sunday were that not all the jokes seemed to be comprehended and appreciated by the audience, that the first murder (previously my favorite due to Rhyne’s award-winning projection design) was awkward and seemed to be missing sound effects, and that the cast’s microphones were hissing throughout the entire production.
But for regional production, this is aces and proves that Robert L. Freedman‘s wicked book and lyrics are sure to be a hit wherever and whenever. You will surely leave with a couple of new favorite songs, a belly full of laughter, and respect for our local talent.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (nonequity)
$20-28 + fees
13+, thematic elements and some crude humor
The orchestra level is accessible with one wheelchair accessible seat. A ramp enables access to the box office and main entrance. The balcony requires patrons to climb stairs.
For more local theatre: See Calendar.
Disclaimer: I had my ticket comped for review purposes but all opinions are my own.