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Audrey Kupferberg: A Gentleman's Guide To Love And Murder

Several thousand people from across upstate New York enjoyed a special theater treat this past week.  From Saturday, September 19, to Saturday, the 26th, Proctors in Schenectady hosted the launch of a 44-week National Tour of the 2014 four-time Tony Award-winning musical, A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER.

The musical by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, has enjoyed a long run on Broadway, which is slated to close in January, 2016.  A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE… tells the story of Monty Navarro, who starts out as a poor, recently orphaned young man, with no prospects and even less money.  When he learns that he actually is part of the rich and high-born D’Ysquith family, Monty plots to do away with the eight members of the family who stand in his way of an earldom, riches, and a castle for a home .

A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE… combines farce and operetta to tell its story in a most entertaining way.  With a tale that takes place more than a hundred years ago, and with a slew of most eccentric characters, the musical might have been a miss for less discerning theatergoers.  But it appears to have quite a universal appeal. 

What makes this show a hit is a combo of exemplary efforts.  The acting by a young, talented, and energetic cast is first rate.  The comedy, much of it gallows humor, is strong and ever-present.  Often it is the music and lyrics that carry the storyline, so one has to pay attention—and the melodies are lilting and lovely.  A friend of mine who has been divesting herself of possessions told me that while she was donating many of her CDs to charity, she just had to purchase the original cast album for this show.

The staging for the National Tour, as demonstrated on the Proctors stage, contributes to the fun.  Instead of a single proscenium stage, there is a proscenium within a proscenium within a proscenium.  This approach gives dimension to the action and gives the audience an enhanced sense of time and space.  The fine direction is by DarkoTresnjak , the Artistic Director of Hartford Stage, who also directed the original Broadway version.   

And finally, Proctors itself is a show place.  The theater, which first opened in 1926, has just been through a serious renovation.  As beautiful as it was before the summer’s work, it now is even more stately and gleaming.  Equally important, technical renovations recently and over the years have made possible the launch of National Tours of Broadway favorites because today’s theater productions require sophisticated technical tools and effects. 

In an area of Tech Valley and the Capital District where excitement brews with the opening of a Nordstrom Rack and the return of Lord & Taylor, and a profusion of deluxe car dealerships, it is good to see excitement also brewing in the popular arts.    

Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and appraiser. She is lecturer emeritus and the former Director of Film Studies at the University at Albany and has co-authored several entertainment biographies with her husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman

 The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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