Wit. Intrigue. Laughter.
Those are a few of the elements that contribute to the genius behind “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.”
It is blatantly clear why the production picked up a Tony Award for best musical in 2014, as seen by the many smiles in the packed house on Thursday night at Popejoy Hall.
That same year it also garnered Tony Awards for direction of a musical, book of a musical and best costume design. Again, much deserved.
To put it simply — the musical is a dark, yet exquisite, comedy. And it’s superbly executed — no pun intended.
The national touring company brings this production to life. From the set design to lighting and choreography, it’s nearly flawless.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” tells the story of Monty Navarro, played by Blake Price. It takes place in London in 1909.
The plot, loosely based on a 1907 novel by Roy Horniman — which also served as the inspiration for the film comedy “Kind Hearts and Coronets” — concerns a penniless young man named Monty Navarro who discovers that he is the ninth in line to become the Earl of Highhurst.
Since the aristocratic family, the D’Ysquiths, disinherited his deceased mother and denies his existence, Navarro takes matters into his own hands; he knocks off each of his relatives, one by one, in outrageously amusing ways.
What keeps the musical light and entertaining is that every single one of the D’Ysquiths — male, female, young and old — is played by the same actor, the incomparable James Taylor Odom.
Navarro is also juggling his mistress, Sibella Hallward, played by Colleen Gallagher, who is after more than just love; his fiancée, Phoebe D’Ysquith, played by Erin McIntye, who is his cousin; and the constant threat of landing behind bars.
Ah, the quartet of lead actors, I can’t say enough about them.
But let’s start.
Price as Navarro is the epitome of a dapper gentleman. He’s calm. He’s cool. He’s collected. And he’s got such a great plan to become the next Earl. What could go wrong?
Price’s stage presence is consistently strong, easily moving between comedy and drama. And judging by the amount of physicality of the role, he has to be on point the entire show.
This is Price’s first time on this national tour and coming in, he knew how rigorous the role is. He played it perfectly with a balance of good and evil, all while being a gentleman.
McLaughlin and McIntyre as Navarro’s love interests add to the tangled web each was weaving in such a perfect way. Kind of makes it difficult to see who Navarro would choose.
For me, the hero of the night is Odom, who blew my mind playing nine — yes NINE! — different characters in the production.
For one, I can’t imagine the endurance it would take to accomplish.
Another, the comedic prowess Odom displayed is an ode to the fantastic writing. He took each of his characters and ran away with each scene. It was pure joy to witness such a talent.
The production is brought together by the scenic design, costume design, lighting design and sound design. Not to mention the fantastic costume design, which is stunning.
Though the musical has had its run on Broadway, it still feels fresh with it’s concept.
Each moving part and each actor — whether lead or ensemble — helped bring the world of 1909 London to life.
In a time when there’s so much wrong in the world, it’s nice to witness so many talented people bringing a piece of art to life — with love and with passion.
We need more of that in the world. At least for New Mexicans, you have five more chances to see it. Definitely worth every moment.
If you go
WHAT: “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10
WHERE: Popejoy Hall, University of New Mexico campus
HOW MUCH: $35-$80, plus fees at unmtickets.com, UNM Bookstore ticket office, UNM ticket office at The Pit, by phone at 925-5858 or 877-664-8661