“A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER,” through March 16, Hale Centre Theatre Jewel Box Stage, 9900 S. Monroe St., Sandy (801-984-9000 or hct.org); running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes (one intermission)
SANDY — “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” Hale Centre Theatre’s newest musical, offers the following three steps for obtaining an earldom.
Step 1: Learn your recently deceased mother was disowned from her aristocratic family when she married your father — who died when you were young — placing you ninth in line to become earl of a large estate.
Step 2: Figure out a way to knock off the eight relatives in front of you to escape your poverty and to secure the hand of the woman you love.
Step 3: Turn the story into a clever, Tony Award-winning musical full of silliness and multiple personalities.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” in it's regional debut, clearly possess one of those quirky plots in which the audience falls for, and subsequently roots for, a character whose goal is so clearly flawed.
In this case, Monty, played by Jacob Squire (Monday/Wednesday/Friday cast) is the loveable nonvillain getting rid of the D’Ysquith heirs in his way. It’s the early 1900s, and his tactics for saying “goodbye, earls” (reminiscent of another ode to love and murder) are never directly lethal. His schemes tend to be more circumstantial, like a cutting a hole on partially frozen pond that one heir is skating on or provoking a hive of bees to take out another guy in line.
Even though the production is essentially about killing people, it doesn’t have a dark vibe. Possibly the best line during the show came not from a character but whispered by my husband: “I need to go to the bathroom, but I want to see how the next one dies.”
The roles of the doomed D’Ysquith family members — some old, some young, some male, some female, some chill, some flamboyant — are all played by one actor. In this case, Dallyn Vail Bayles (Monday/Wednesday/Friday) executed the eight different characters in a cleverly splendid and an absurdly fast fashion. There are scenes in which he walked off the stage as one character and returned as another within a matter of seconds, which is part of what makes the show so delightful.
The rest of the cast complements the story and the lead actors. Early on, the amusing Miss Shingle, played by Bonnie Wilson Whitlock (Monday/Wednesday/Friday), clues Monty into his true roots, setting off Monty’s heir today, gone tomorrow plans.
Then there are the two love interests: Erin Royall Carlson as Sibella (Monday/Wednesday/Friday), who’s selfish and always dressed to kill in pink, and Lisa Zimmerman as Phoebe (Monday/Wednesday/Friday), a sweet distant cousin who’s often clad in blue. Both have incredible voices that come together in a catchy little love triangle song called “Marry You.”Comment on this story
This how-to musical, which runs through March 16, boasts a set reminiscent of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion — think singing portraits and busts in the family castle (and probably some ghosts too with all the family eradications). Projected images also bring the story to life — or death — at points in the musical.
By the end of the show, the outcome of the murder charges are clear, although Monty’s love triangle remains murky. He may get away with murder, but will he get away with love? Either way, theatergoers will leave with smiles, a couple of songs stuck in their heads and probably some sage advice on how not to become an earl.
Content advisory: "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" contains some sexual innuendo and social drinking.