Review: Tuacahn’s ‘Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder’ simply kills

Production photo from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" courtesy of Tuacahn Center for the Arts, St. George News

REVIEW — Tuacahn Center for the Arts has long been billed as “Broadway in the Desert,” and with its current show — the Tony Award winning “A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder” — the regional theater has practically transported the 48th street Midtown production to Southern Utah.

That includes an efficiently elaborate set and props, sparkling Edwardian costumes, actors reprising their roles from various tours of the show and even the original choreographer, Peggy Hickey, who also directs.

The deliciously, harmlessly malevolent show (parents are advised to ask someone who has seen it) is a wondrous alchemy of Noel Coward, Gilbert & Sullivan with plenty of Monty Python thrown in for good measure and is based on a turn of the century novel by Roy Horniman.

That’s a neat trick there — in and of itself — taking century-old material and creating something old-fashioned in construct yet refreshingly fresh. Penniless Monty Navarro, played by perfectly conniving but charming Nick Tubbs, has learned that he is from a noble heritage, only eight, easily sacrificed (or so he conspires) aristocratic D’Ysquith family members away from becoming the Earl of Highhurst.

Production photo from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” courtesy of Tuacahn Center for the Arts, St. George News

Less a whodunit than a howdunit, the hilarity ensues as Monty pursues his nefarious goal, knocking off his newly discovered relatives, all of whom are fabulously portrayed by James Taylor Odom. What a delight watching Odom so quickly, and seemingly with little effort, transform into the outrageous men and women of the D’Ysquith family.

My favorite was Beekeeper Henry who duets with Monty in Act One’s showstopper and subtly suggestive “Better With A Man.” Because most of the debauchery occurs in Act One, the momentum slows a bit in Act Two, but not for long as we’re introduced to the clever, crowd pleasing door-hallway-door setup required of “I’ve Decided to Marry You” sung by Monty and his two pursuers, Sibella and Phoebe, exquisitely performed by Gail Bennett and Kelley Dorney.

The lyrics are so quick-witted, it’s likely you’ll miss plenty of composer Steven Lutvak’s brilliant humor (book writer Robert L. Freedman assisted as well), thus audiences will be rewarded for seeing the show again.

With a cast and production team this good, it begs the question – why spend so much time and money traveling to New York? There’s plenty of entertaining love and murder right here – at bargain prices.

Tuacahn’s “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the indoor Hafen Theatre runs July 5 to Aug. 10. Prices range from $19.00 to $49.00; go to Tuacahn.org or call 435-652-3300.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

 

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