Delightful deceit: 5 reasons to see ‘Love and Murder’ at La Comedia

(left to right) Chris Beiser (in multiple D'Ysquith roles), KatieAnn Bonavita (Sibella Hallward), David Thomas (Monty Navarro) and Hannah Hensler (Phoebe D'Ysquith) appear in La Comedia Dinner Theatre's production of "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder." CONTRIBUTED
Caption
(left to right) Chris Beiser (in multiple D'Ysquith roles), KatieAnn Bonavita (Sibella Hallward), David Thomas (Monty Navarro) and Hannah Hensler (Phoebe D'Ysquith) appear in La Comedia Dinner Theatre's production of "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder." CONTRIBUTED

Credit: JUSTIN WALTON

Credit: JUSTIN WALTON

Musical comedy set in Victorian England received 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical

La Comedia Dinner Theatre offers an entertaining production of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” recipient of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Based on a novel by Roy Horniman and set in 1907 London, this clever, humorous and sophisticated tale centers on impoverished Monty Navvaro, who finds out he’s ninth in line for an earldom in the lofty D’Ysquith family. In order to advance, he seeks to kill his unsuspecting relatives without being caught.

Featuring a Tony-winning book by Robert L. Freedman, lyrics by Freedman and Steven Lutvak and music by Lutvak, “Love and Murder” pinpoints themes of class, privilege, betrayal, treachery, revenge, infidelity and loss. Here are five reasons to see this vocally strong, attractively designed show:

A MAN WHO WEARS MANY HATS

In addition to providing firm direction and minor yet effective choreography, Chris Beiser admirably takes on the gargantuan task of portraying all eight members of the D’Ysquith family – men and women alike. Seamlessly morphing into each character and costume change with colorful nuance, energy and personality, Beiser delivers a memorable performance bolstered by impressive purpose and passion. In fact, he’s particularly hilarious dangling on a ledge as Rev. Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith, flamboyantly admiring Monty as Lord Henry D’Ysquith and venturing on a Rainbow Tour of sorts as Lady Salome D’Ysquith Pumphrey.

A MAN OF CHARMING DECEPTION

As sly, sneaky Monty, David Thomas delivers his most challenging yet mature and rewarding portrayal. Having been notably seen at La Comedia in full farcical mode as Buddy in “Elf: The Musical,” Thomas steps up his game here not only as a genuine romantic lead but as an actor who grasps the complexities of Monty’s charming deceit. He understands the importance of having the audience on Monty’s side in spite of the increasing deception and death he sets into motion. Thomas enthusiastically taps into his enjoyment for broad physicality, but the fact that he doesn’t overtly rely on goofiness or slapstick to sell his role is a plus.

LOVELY LEADING LADIES

As Monty ascends, he’s ultimately caught in a love triangle with high society-seeker Sibella Hallward (KatieAnn Bonavita) and Henry’s sister Phoebe D’Ysquith (Hannah Hensler). Beautifully costumed in Victorian attire by Emercita Erb and Maridee Alexander, both sopranos offer lovely portrayals and vocals. Bonavita, recently seen as Ariel in La Comedia’s outstanding “The Little Mermaid,” shines in “I Don’t Know What I’d Do Without You” and “Poor Monty.” Hensler nicely showcases her vocal range during “Inside Out” opposite Thomas. The ladies winningly unite late in Act 2 for a gorgeous rendition of “That Horrible Woman.”

A FUN, MELODIC AND OPERATIC SCORE

Freedman and Lutvak create a melodic, English music hall score that arises as an operatic throwback to Gilbert and Sullivan with a nod to Rupert Holmes (“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”) and a pinch of Maury Yeston (“Titanic,” “Phantom,” “Nine”) added for good measure. Highlights include the savvy, innuendo-filled “Better With a Man” (sung to the hilt by Beiser and Thomas), haunting ballad “Sibella,” witty “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying?” (sung by the small, cohesive ensemble notably including funny ladies Karie-Lee Sutherland as Miss Shingle and Tina Shatto as Lady Eugenia) and wonderfully comedic “I’ve Decided to Marry You.”

AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE SOMETHING NEW

If you’re a theatergoer tired of seeing shows you’ve already seen numerous times through the years, now is your opportunity to support an acclaimed yet little-known work relatively new to the Miami Valley. With chaos in today’s news, “Love and Murder” is a perfectly silly summertime escape.

Contact this contributing writer at rflorence2@gmail.com.

HOW TO GO

What: “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

Where: La Comedia Dinner Theatre, 765 W. Central Ave., Springboro

When: Through Sept. 19; Performances are Thursday through Sunday evenings with matinees on Thursday, Friday and Sunday

Cost: $65-$76; $35 for kids 11 and under

Tickets: Call 1-800-677-9505 or 937-746-4554 or visit lacomedia.com