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The Last One You’d Expect

Posted by on Friday, February 24, 2017 in Production Review, , , .

As someone who has grown up surrounded by athletics, currently works in athletics, and hopes to work in athletics the rest of my life, you could say that going out to the theatre to see a musical is not one of my main hobbies. However, because it was a class requirement, I borrowed my friend’s car after work, drove myself downtown, and paid $29 for parking (because I was running late) to see A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

On a cool Wednesday night in Nashville, I walked into the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) and made my way to my seat in Andrew Jackson Hall. Along the way I saw hundreds of Nashville residents dressed in their finest attire excited for a night out on the town, while I showed up straight from work still dressed in my sweatpants and sweatshirt. Horrendously underdressed, I made my way to my seat in the back row while I encountered some curious, yet deserved glances from other audience members. Effortlessly, I made it obvious that I was not a theatre connoisseur and was there strictly because I had to see the play for a class. Safe to say, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder was not off to the best start in my book. Nevertheless, I took my seat and settled in for what I hoped would be an enjoyable show.

From a poor young boy who recently lost his mother, to heir to the D’Ysquith throne, Gentleman’s Guide takes the audience on an adventure full of, as the title suggest, love and murder. Although the holiday season has come and gone, Gentleman’s Guide provides the audience with that warm holiday feeling. The performance’s light hearted comedic genius is a nice escape for many who probably hope that one day they will wake look around at the reality they live in and realize that they are just living a bad dream. Between the constant threats of deportation, the “beloved” New England Patriots Franchise winning yet another Super Bowl, and the new centerpiece of American dart boards, our 45th President, America is in a continuous turmoil. However, there is an old adage that reads, “Laughter is the best medicine” and I don’t know about you, but I could use some of that medicine right about now. Gentleman’s Guide uses a simplistic, predictive plot, a versatile cast, and catchy, yet creative musical numbers to not only excite the audience, but more importantly to create a necessary distraction from today’s society.

Along with the title, director Darko Tresnjak’s opening number, “A Warning to the Audience,” gave an intentional spoiler to what the play would be about: love and murder. Lots and lots of murder, nine to be exact. The second musical number, cleverly titled “You’re a D’Ysquith,” (which sounds remarkably close to dies quick) furthers the notion that the audience may be in for quite a few deaths and being that the show is just over 2 hours, those deaths are coming quick.

After a long day at work, I may not have wanted to be at TPAC, but I was able to enjoy the play more because I felt a connection to the character Monty Navarro (played inspiringly by Kevin Massey). He grew up in hard times and, as a son of a washerwoman and a musician, he was looked down on by society. When Miss Shingle (Mary VanArsdel), an old friend of his mother’s, shows up to tell him that he is an heir to the D’Ysquith throne, he is not only rejected by his new family, but they see him as an embarrassment. Monty was an outsider; an outcast to society and according to the D’Ysquith’s did not belong in high society.

I connected with this because when I looked around, I did not see many familiar faces. I saw people who looked like they belonged, not people dressed in sweatpants. So when people stared at me when I walked around the lobby and snickered about me in their seats, I felt as though I was Monty. While I responded by keeping to myself and staying focused on the play, Monty had a more creative approach to deal with how he was treated. He decided to exact revenge and murder anyone and everyone in his way to becoming heir to the D’Ysquith throne, whether they directly wronged him or not. Even with our different approaches, I still felt connected to his character and his drive and determination to get what he felt he deserved. He may have killed his whole family, but there is something to be said about making a plan and executing it. Monty may have been accused of murder, but no one can accuse him of not being a hard worker.

Many people believe that theatre is supposed to have a message, supposed to force you to apply yourself and reconsider things in your own life. While this is true, I believe that it can be just as effective if it has the opposite approach. There may not have been a strong message to take away, but the wonderful acting, amusing musical numbers, and creative storyline made it easy for me to be a fan of the show. And while I am apart of the “Vanderbilt bubble” so much of us live in, it was nice to get that escape, get out on the town and be an audience member to the 2014 Tony Award winning best musical. I might be the last one you’d expect, but I very much enjoyed A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

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