ABOUT THE PLAY
A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder is the knock ‘em dead musical comedy sensation nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2014 and winning four, including Best Musical. It also received Best Musical Awards from Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League and in 2015 was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
Monty Navarro, a distant heir to a family fortune, sets out to jump the line of succession by “eliminating” the eight relatives who stand in his way to becoming the ninth Earl of Highhurst. In the midst of Monty’s macabre plotting, he also finds himself juggling the affections of two beautiful ladies – one, his very married mistress and, the other, a distant cousin. The musical is based on the 1907 novel, Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal, by Roy Horniman, which was also the source for the 1949 film, Kind Hearts and Coronets, starring Alec Guinness.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder premiered in Hartford, Connecticut in October of 2012 in a joint production with the Hartford Stage and the Old Globe Theatre. It opened at the Old Globe in March 2013 before moving to Broadway on November 7, 2013 where it ran until January 17, 2016. The first national tour was launched in September 2015 with a second tour which opened on September 27, 2017.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Director Brad Carroll summed up the show by quoting co-author Steven Lutvak, “A low comedy in a very fancy box!” to which Carroll added, “Silly, zany antics, juxtaposed against a stylish, elegant world.” Extrapolating even further, Carroll said there is a unique sophistication about the show that is both high-brow and low-brow – Oscar Wilde meets Agatha Christie meets Gilbert and Sullivan meets British Music Hall, with a dash of Monty Python.
Set in the Edwardian Era (1901-1910), A Gentleman’s Guide lends itself to a romantic golden age style with the appearance of manners and class on the surface and a not so pretty reality underneath. Think early Downton Abbey as a musical sitcom. The songs in the production regularly relate to status or class – wanting it, having or not having it, needing it or deserving it – and each propels this high-spirited, cheeky, Edwardian romp...about a determined, yet lovable, “serial killer.”
The conceit of the play is delightfully unique: all of Monty Navarro’s victims are played by one actor! Carroll said, “we see the same person ‘die’ over and over and over and in rather hilarious ways. Subconsciously, we know that can’t really be happening so, in a way, it makes it okay for us to root for the killer.” Meanwhile, for Andy Philpot, playing all eight of the victims, it becomes a tour de force. In fact, for Philpot, the show backstage might almost be more interesting than the show onstage because of his lightning-fast quick changes. “I think audiences will be amazed when he leaves the stage and returns 10 seconds later as a completely different human being,” Carroll said. Philpot won’t be the only one with quick changes. Of the cast of fifteen, only four actors play single characters while ten ensemble members join in the antics as tour guides, butlers and maids, inspectors, magistrates, pub denizens, newsboys, clerks and a host of others.
The director most appreciates that the show is written purely as an entertainment – no deep metaphors to untangle, no pointed commentary on the world today – just an old-fashioned entertainment with a fantastic script and score! “As a composer, I have such respect for what they have written – a beautifully crafted story and music that is both elegant and hilarious.”
For Carroll, another exciting aspect of directing A Gentleman’s Guide is the fact that it is still “new.” “Older musicals such as Hello, Dolly or even Les Mis often carry with them a certain expectation or “branding” that says “this is how this show should be done.” A Gentleman’s Guide is still somewhat embryonic in that sense, opening up a whole world of creative possibilities.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Robert L. Freedman won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Book of a Musical for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. He was also nominated for a Tony Award for Best Score, with composer and co-lyricist Steven Lutvak, with whom he shared the 2014 Drama Desk Award for Best Lyrics. Among his television career highlights, Freedman won the Writers Guild Award for HBO’s A Deadly Secret, and was nominated for an Emmy Award and a Writers Guild award for the miniseries Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows. Other teleplays include Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, for which he received a third Writers Guild nomination; What Makes A Family, which received a GLAAD Award and for which he was a Humanitas finalist; What Love Sees, winner of the Silver Plaque at the Chicago International Television Festival; as well as the highly-rated true crime dramas Murder In The Hamptons, The Pastor’s Wife, Honor Thy Mother, and Bitter Blood. In 2006, Freedman and Lutvak received both the Fred Ebb Award for songwriting and the Kleban Award for lyric writing for their work on the musicals A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Campaign of the Century. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Freedman has a B.A. in Theatre from UCLA and an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing and Musical Theatre from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is currently at work on a film for HBO and Sundance Films. He is married to actress Jean Kauffman. They are the proud parents of Max Freedman, a writer and community activist living in Brooklyn.
Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote of Steven Lutvak, “An upper-middlebrow Billy Joel crossed with a lower-highbrow Tom Lehrer with a pinch of Debussy: that’s how you might place the music of the singer, songwriter, pianist and raconteur Steven Lutvak in the artistic hierarchy of contemporary songwriters.” Lutvak made his Broadway debut as Composer and Co-Lyricist of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which won the Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, and Tony Awards for Best Musical. He and his collaborator on A Gentleman’s Guide, Robert L. Freedman, also won the Drama Desk Award for Best Lyrics, having earlier, together, won both the Fred Ebb and the Kleban Awards for their theater songs. Featured in Time Magazine’s People to Watch column, Lutvak wrote the title track to Paramount’s hit documentary, Mad Hot Ballroom. He has sung his own songs at Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Recital Hall, and most of the major New York Cabaret rooms, including The Oak Room at the Algonquin, Rainbow and Stars, and the Russian Tea Room. Other awards include two Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Awards; the first Johnny Mercer Emerging American Songwriter Award; a New American Works grant from the NEA, and the ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award. He is particularly proud that several of his songs are included in “Classic American Popular Song,” a follow-up to Alec Wilder’s classic textbook, “American Popular Song,” and equally proud to be on faculty of his alma mater, the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program. Lutvak has released two solo albums: The Time It Takes and Ahead of My Heart.