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Music-Theater-Dance

Eight roles is enough for 'Love and Murder' actor

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    James Taylor, Kristen Kane and Blake Price in 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.'

    JEREMY DANIEL

  • Gentleman-s-Guide-to-Love-and-Murder

    Colleen McLaughlin and Erin McIntyre in a scene from 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.'

    JEREMY DANIEL

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    Broadway production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

    Jeremy Daniel

In A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, the award-winning musical comedy the Theater League is bringing to town for six performances beginning Thursday, Monty Navarro is a poor but lucky Englishman living in early-20th century Britain.

He’s lucky because he discovers that he’s an heir to the D’Ysquith family’s fortune.

Gentleman-s-Guide-to-Love-and-Murder-1

James Taylor, Kristen Kane and Blake Price in 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.'

JEREMY DANIEL Enlarge

But there’s a problem — eight of them, actually. There are eight other D'Ysquith relatives who could inherit, too. Monty’s solution: murder. He decides to kill off his relatives one by one, without being found out and sent to prison. An added benefit of becoming the heir is that it could help him keep his fiancee and his mistress.

The Broadway production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which opened in 2013, won four Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Book and was nominated for Best Score.

On this national tour, Monty Navarro is played by Blake Price, and Colleen McLaughlin plays Sibella Hallward, who is being courted by Monty.

The D’Ysquith family, all eight of them, are played by one actor, James Taylor Odom.

They’re all upper-crust and wealthy aristocrats who really are kind of nasty to anyone who’s not on their level, Odom said in a phone interview.

Portraying eight characters who have individual voices sounds like a tall order, but Odom is experienced.

In a production of the musical comedy Murder for Two, he was one of just two actors — one played the detective, and Odom played the other 13 characters, the suspects.

“I’m used to playing several characters, but this [A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder] is more of a marathon in terms of physicality and getting on and offstage with these full costume changes. It’s pretty amazing.”

He has some help making the costume changes, with a dresser who travels with him.

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Colleen McLaughlin and Erin McIntyre in a scene from 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.'

JEREMY DANIEL Enlarge

“She and I have highly choreographed our quick-change movements,” he explained, and there are changes of wigs and makeup as well, so additional dressers are hired locally. It’s all hands on deck, he said, with several people touching him, moving him, and putting him into costumes in a matter of seconds.

There hasn’t been an onstage mixup in characters and costumes, he added, although there was one occasion when he stepped into the wrong costume but realized it in time and they switched to the correct one.

Odom plays characters who include an elderly priest who likes to drink and loves to talk about medieval architecture; a privileged young man who goes to the pub every day and loves to tend to his bees; a woman named Lady Hyacinth who is “a bulldog of a woman” who is extremely wealthy. She spends her time working with charities, not to be generous, but to increase her social position. And there’s Lady Salome, who is a terrible, terrible actress. “We get a glimpse of what it’s like to watch Lady Salome act onstage and it’s a lot of fun,” Odom said, adding that he loves playing Lord Asquith, Sr. “He’s a banker in his 70s, the only one who gets to show some heart.

“I play a wide range of characters. It’s kinda cool to have all those different roles.”

Most of those characters have songs, requiring the actor to sing in different voices. The trick is to find the voice to speak in for each, but transitioning into singing, he said.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder has been described as “Downton Abbey meets Monty Python,” he said, and there are murders, but there is romance and lots of lighthearted elements.

He was drawn to the musical because he loves British comedy, period stories, and murder mysteries, and this show has it all.

“The combination of the Edwardian Period, a bit of murder and [some] mystery, as well as physical comedy and witty dialogue — I’m hooked.”

The music is great too, he said, with a glimpse of the old-fashioned Gilbert and Sullivan influence, but fresh and new.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder may not be as well-known as some shows, Odom said, but “all I can say is, people who are coming to this show are having a great time. When they figure out what’s going on, with me playing eight characters, they are along for the ride, and it’s really a blast.”

The musical comedy is written by Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics) and is based on a 1907 novel by Roy Horniman.

Performances of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets are $33, $53, and $63 Thursday and Sunday evenings, $38, $58, and $68 Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday matinees, and $43, $63, and $73 Saturday evenings. Tickets are available at 419-381-8851, theaterleague.com, and in person at the Stranahan box office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

The show includes adult themes and mature content and is suitable for ages 13 and older.

Contact Sue Brickey at: sbrickey@theblade.com.

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