A Tony Award-winning murder musical is the perfect show for the spooky October, said show director Rody Gilkeson.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” takes place October 8-24 at the Pennsylvania Playhouse in Bethlehem.
“It’s a very funny show and all the murders that take place are silly in nature,” Gilkeson says of the show which won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2014.
Production was originally scheduled at the Playhouse for fall 2020, but has been postponed due to the halt in the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
Gilkeson is thrilled to finally lead the series.
“I’ve seen it three times on Broadway and fell in love with it,” said Gilkeson, chairman of the board of Pennsylvania Playhouse.
The story is based on the 1907 novel, “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal,” by Roy Horniman.
In the plot, Monty Navarro is a young man who loses his chance when he learns from the mysterious Miss Shingle that he comes from an aristocratic family. She tells him that her late mother was disowned by the family for running away with a Spanish musician.
Monty discovers he is the eighth in the D’Ysquith family to be the Grand Earl of Highhurst Castle. However, as Monty thinks his chances of surviving the other heirs are low, he decides to take revenge, kill those close to him, and make his way to the estate list.
One of the highlights of the series is the role of stage thief for an actor who plays nine of the doomed heirs who achieve their ends in the most creative and humorous way.
Christopher D’Imperio plays the entire D’Ysquith family, including two women, a gay, an elderly man, a bodybuilder and a drunken pastor.
“It’s a tour de force,” said Gilkeson. “Chris is constantly changing costumes. He does an incredible job.
Gilkeson says Jefferson Mays, the actor who played the role on Broadway, lost weight during the run because the role is so demanding.
Patrick Mertz plays Monty. Mertz’s real wife Kimberly Mertz plays one of Monty’s love interests, Sibella Hallward.
Elizabeth Marsh-Gilkeson, who is the real wife of Rody Gilkeson, embodies Monty’s other love, Phoebe D’Ysquith.
“I am amazed at how talented this cast is,” said Gilkeson. “It will be a great show. “
The musical has a book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman, with music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak.
Gilkeson says the production is The Playhouse’s third in-person show since “Talley’s Folly” in April.
He says the two-person show, “Talley’s Folly,” drew a small audience and that “Twelve Angry Jurors” in June drew a slightly larger audience.
Gilkeson hopes the black comedy, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”, will attract even more viewers.
“The artists are all vaccinated, so the artists will not be masked,” he says.
The performance hall requires members of the public who are not fully vaccinated to wear a face mask for the duration of the performance.
The production features period costume and set by Brett Oliveira that recreates a British Music Hall from the early 1900s, with a proscenium stage.
The cast includes Geri Kery as Miss Shingle, as well as Alyssa Steiner, Cindy Cicconi-Ernst, Evan Heger, Brian Houp, Deb Jacoby, Sophia Johnson-Grimes, Nick Madden, Andrew Maldonado, Matt Redline, Janelle Taylor, Ted Williams and Deven Windisch.
Performances: 7:30 p.m. on October 8, 9, 15, 16 and 22, 23; and 3 p.m. on October 10, 17 and 24.
Tickets: www.paplayhouse.org, 610-865-6665
“Curtain Rises” is a chronicle about theater, live performances, their actors and the directors and artists who direct them. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus Editor, [email protected]
PHOTO CONTRIBUTION COURTESY OF PENNSYLVANIA PLAYHOUSE Patrick Mertz (Monty), Kimberly Mertz (Sibella Hallward), “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”, weekends October 8-24, Pennsylvania Playhouse, Bethlehem.