Atlanta’s Fox Theatre traveled back in time to the early 20th century to stage the 2014 Tony Award-winning musical, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” last month. This witty show written by Robert L. Freedman is based on the dark 1949 British comedy film, “Kind Hearts and Coronets” and writer Roy Horniman’s 1907 novel “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal.” Described by USA Today as “morbidly hilarious,” the musical is a mix between “Downton Abbey,” Oscar Wilde, Monty Python with a little bit of a “Mystery of Edwin Drood” vibe.
Monty Navarro, portrayed by Blake Price, comes back from his beloved mother’s funeral to his shabby apartment when in walks Miss Shingle, played by Kristen Kane, and informs him that his mother was a D’Ysquith, a well-off family in the highest social circle of London. His mother had never mentioned his rich relations, for she was cast out of the family because she married his poor father out of love instead of marrying for wealth. Apparently, Monty is ninth in line in succession for the earldom and the family fortune. What does a guy like Monty do in this type of situation? Get rid of the eight relatives that come before him, of course.
With impeccable scenic design and rapid set changes, the production keeps the audience at the edge of its seat as Monty takes them on his adventurous and hysterical murder spree. I have never experienced an audience so engaged in a show, soaking up every word and laughing until the verge of tears. On press night, the Fox Theatre was packed with mostly an older audience. However, the show would be just as enjoyable to younger viewers, for the musical is written to entertain people of all generations.
The production was extremely well done, but I was most impressed with James Taylor Odom, the young actor who played all eight of the D’Ysquith men and women who met their unfortunate end. Odom did an incredible job of mastering each and every role, and if I hadn’t known it was him playing all of those characters, I would have thought different actors were portraying the comical D’Ysquith family. Odom, a fellow Georgian who graduated from Brenau University in Gainesville, accomplished a feat that many actors can only dream of, earning him a standing ovation when he came out for his final bow. He is truly an inspiration for all Georgia actors who come to see the show and witness one of their own shining on stage in a Broadway musical.
Now on the national tour across the U.S., “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” is definitely worth the trip for young and old audiences alike. The witty and catchy melodies and the outlandish situations create a show where the audience can come to laugh, enjoy, sit back in their seat, and witness how karma brings everyone the bizarre ending they deserve.
Above Photo: James Taylor Odom in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” Photo by Jeremy Daniel/Broadway In Atlanta
VOX got to attend this performance thanks to the nonprofit Most Valuable Kids – Atlanta, which partners with local venues and nonprofits to provide experiences for Atlanta-area youth.