The Production Company topped off their 20th year with the Australian Premiere of Tony Award winning musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak. A sophisticated piece of musical theatre interspersed with the silliest of slapstick comedy, A Gentleman’s Guide tells the tale of a relative nobody whose efforts to slay his way to nobility come crashing down when he is slung in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.
Riotously camp in all the right ways and refreshingly unapologetic in its blatant political incorrectness, this show was undoubtedly ridiculous. And, while it’s classical overtones may not be everyone’s cup of arsenic, it certainly is a musical theatre connoisseur’s dream.
Borrowing its frivolity, hurtling pace, quick wit and healthy bout of sexual innuendo from Gilbert and Sullivan, the style of this show requires absolute precision to its core. And this production did not disappoint! From split second costume and set changes to impeccable comic timing, this show ran like clockwork.
Having shifted from the State Theatre, the regular venue for Production Company shows, the Playhouse made for a far more intimate experience. This was a great choice for such an intricate show and showed off the attention to detail in every facet of stagecraft. From the stunning costumes by Isaac Lummis to the grandeur of the set by Christina Smith and the smart use of the stage, this show was slick.
Lighting by Matt Scott, projections and scenery worked seamlessly together to demonstrate location and shifting scenes; while Roger Hodgman’s attention to detail as Director brought us such hysterical brilliance as unspoken asides and cheeky interactions with the onstage orchestra. Choreography by Dana Jolly was flawlessly interwoven into the action and the 12-piece orchestra conducted by Musical Director, Kellie Dickerson, was faultless.
From the outset, the ensemble of six was a highlight. Each member was of leading calibre, with precise vocals and full embodiment of the melodramatic genre.
Sweeping quirkily onto the stage to set up the narrative, Nancye Hayes played a wonderfully bizarre and sumptuously sassy Miss Shingle. A national treasure of our entertainment industry, her seamless transition from scene to song was a masterclass in musical theatre prowess.
Production Company newcomer, Chris Ryan, doused us in rich, smooth baritone vocals as the cunning romantic lead, Montague Navarro. Performing the wordy role with such ease, especially after a mere two weeks in the rehearsal room, he remained a cool, calm killer – the ideal contrast to the chaos his character invokes.
Alinta Chidzey plays the sultry Sibella Hallward, who taunts and teases poor Montague out of his senses. Her vocals were crisp and clean – a delight to listen to – and her cheeky portrayal of the adulterous minx was a beautiful contrast to the ever-so-sweet Phoebe D’Ysquith, played by Genevieve Kingsford. Flawless as always, Kingsford’s soprano notes soared to the back of the theatre sending tingles through spines throughout the audience.
Finally, the incredible, the incomparable, the absolute mastermind Mitchel Butel shapeshifted immaculately between eight uniquely hilarious characters throughout the show, each with their very own accent, physicality and temperament. With the wit of an Oxford scholar, the timing of a conductor’s baton and the audacity to exceed the limits of our expectations, this comic genius provided character transitions so seamless it was as though there were eight different actors to fill each role.
The energy of the entire cast was met with cackling laughter from the captivated audience throughout the evening, and a well-deserved standing ovation was the cherry on top of a wonderful Opening Night. Without hesitation, this is the best show to hit Melbourne in years!
So, who did it, you ask? You’ll just have to head to the Playhouse Theatre to find out! A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder plays for a strictly limited season at the Arts Centre Melbourne. Don’t miss out on this comic masterpiece!
For more information: http://www.theproductioncompany.com.au/gentlemansguide/