Reviews and Previews

CVLT’s A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder, Where the Womxn Bring the Heat

Chagrin Valley Little Theatre
Community Theatre

Review by: Whitney Miller
Published: April 2, 2022

A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder outlines the story of Monty Navarro as he attempts to enact revenge on his newly found bloodline that had disowned his, now deceased, mother. Navarro gains trust and respect from all he meets as he orchestrates scenarios to ensure their demise, while simultaneously navigating a very endearing love triangle with a married woman and his cousin. Based on a 1907 novel, this show exploits smart dialogue and sharp wit to create a wonderfully ridiculous story. It runs at Chagrin Valley Little Theatre through April 10th.

Overall, it was evident that this show was cast beautifully and put together with a lot of hard work. This reviewer’s only complaint was in the details. With the limitations at hand, the production overcame extraordinary odds but some details remained unfinished.

There are quite a few scenes throughout the show where I found myself holding my breath, witnessing moments of magnificent lighting design. It was obvious that Tom West (Production Designer/Technical Director) was inspired at times and was able to create beautiful moments on stage. However, like the whole show, some scenes were incomplete or quickly put together, creating harsh shadows and causing the audience to miss details on stage.

When the show opened I immediately worried about the sound, but hearing actors was never an issue. The pit was kept at a dim level, which melted into the background when paired with the tremendous vocals. It wasn’t until large orchestral moments when the sound suggested the pit may have been in a little over their heads.

I cannot say enough about the costumes. The womxn were impeccably dressed and Mayim Hamblem (Costume Designer) was able to pull together details that made entire looks masterpieces. The addition of a blue broach changed my life. My only regret is physically seeing the black, thin, clingy unitards in Act I. Unfortunately, I will never be able to unsee them.

Where the details affected the show the most was in the projections. The use of projections was clever and appropriately used to aid in the show’s scenery and stage design, but it seemed some visuals were not thoroughly vetted before being added to the deck. The backdrop was also constantly moving as actors and crew moved backstage, creating a distraction during many scenes.

Marc C. Howard (Director/Choreographer) did a great job at utilizing the space and creating moments all over the stage. He was also able to create surprising, visual gags that kept the audience laughing, present company included.

I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this cast is. Musicals in this vein require perfectly timed physical comedy for a successful show and it’s one of the hardest things to nail. But this cast did it flawlessly and effortlessly. The ensemble was a powerhouse during harmonies, leaving the audience wanting more. Brian Diehl (as almost every character) is a workhorse and a master of subtlety. Playing 8 roles, all with the same last name, is a daunting task and he made it through with ease. He utilized similar themes to tie the characters together all while making them clear individuals. Allison Lehr (Sibella Hallward) and Leah Saltzer (Phoebe D’Ysquith) tore the house down in Act II. When they were on stage together, it was magic. Danny “King of the Facial Expression” Simpson drove an incredible performance as Monty Navarro. His knack for physical comedy and his remarkable chemistry with both Lehr and Saltzer made for a perfectly robust performance. The song “I’ve Decided to Marry You” is worth the price of admission alone.

While there may have been some unwanted ‘drama’ with the production of A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder, the crew, staff, and cast were able to put together a wonderful production. Do yourself a favor and go see the show, you’ll have a ball...or two.