With Lyric’s ‘Gentleman,’ Veloudos reunites the band
BOSTON – Acclaimed director Spiro Veloudos has brought the band back together again. And boy, do they sound great.
Veloudos, now the Producing Artistic Director Emeritus at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, has assembled an all-star cast for the Lyric production of the Tony-winning musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” now being presented through May 22.
The musical was one of many productions sidelined and delayed by the pandemic that shut theaters. But it has proved to be worth the wait, a spring fling of the highest order, seamlessly blending great acting, vocal instruments to die for, sterling production values, and talented musical accompaniment.
Five members of the cast – Leigh Barrett, Jen Ellis, Aimee Doherty, Jared Troilo, Phil Tayler — have performed in award-winning musicals at the Lyric Stage with several winning Norton or IRNE Awards for their performances.
While “Gentleman” is a true ensemble cast, with its success dependent on the work of all involved, there are two actors who are front and center and have to carry much of the load.
Jared Troilo has done great work in a myriad of roles for quite a long time now, and in recent years has hit his stride as a performer who can carry a show in a leading role in productions such “The Last Five Years” and “Murder for Two” at the Lyric.
Here he is the charming and ambitious Montague “Monty” Navarro, who is stunned when an old woman named Miss Shingle (Broadway veteran Karen Murphy) visits him after his mother’s funeral to tell Monty his mother was a member of the lofty D’Ysquith family, and he is eighth in line to become the Earl of Highhurst.
He plots and plans to speed up the line of succession, all the while juggling the affections of two beautiful women, dodging suspicions and relying on fortunate – and hilarious — twists of fate.
Troilo is aided and abetted by the incomparable Neil A. Casey, who can do pretty much anything but is at his best when allowed to go delightfully over the top, this time by bringing to life a series of eight improbable, eclectic characters in an upper-crust English family, including a pious, tippling clergyman, a pompous bodybuilder, an aging actress, and a misguided philanthropist.
They meet a series of unhappy endings, hilariously and creatively staged.
Monty is smitten with the lovely Sibella Hallward (Aimee Doherty), but she sees no great prospects ahead for him despite the possibility of earldom, and she has another fish on the line in the form of wealthy Lionel Holland.
But things when complicated when Monty meets Phoebe D’Ysquith (Jennifer Ellis), the young and beautiful sister of beekeeper Henry D’Ysquith, who makes it plain he prefers the company of men (“Better with a Man”).
Monty is continuing to see Sibella when an unexpected visit from Phoebe leads to a scene of great comic delight. Doherty and Ellis together can be dazzling, as they were in The Huntington’s “Merrily We Roll Along.”
Leigh Barrett contributes both her vocal talents and a fine comic turn as the beleaguered Eugenie, wife of Casey’s uber-pompous Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith, the Earl of Highsmith.
The rest of the cast – Phil Tayler, Kate Klika, Todd McNeel, Jr., Lori L’italien, and Robert St. Laurence — provide superb support to the principals in a variety of roles and the many production numbers.
Robert L. Freedman’s witty book, based on a novel by Roy Horniman, won a Tony Award and misses no opportunity to skewer the Edwardian English society that was heavy on imperialism, racism and classism. His lyrics co-written with composer Steven Lutvak are just as clever and witty, but at a recent performance, the orchestra led by Matthew Stern at times overpowered them, an occupational hazard in the intimate Lyric Stage space.
In his Broadway debut, Lutvak’s score won the 2014 Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle Awards. It complements the book beautifully with numbers such as “I Don’t Understand the Poor,” “Lady Hyacinth Abroad,” and “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths dying?”
In fashioning this musical, Veloudos has turned to skilled, decorated collaborators who all played a part in bringing Edwardian society to the Lyric stage. They include Music Director Stern, Choreographer Larry Sousa, Scenic Designer Shelley Barish, Costume Designer Elisabetta Polito, Lighting Designer Franklin Meissner Jr., Sound Designer Andrew Duncan Will, and Projection Designer Jonathan Carr, who designed projections that sing and become part of the show.
After Veloudos announced his retirement in 2019, “Gentleman’s Guide” was to be his final show as Lyric’s producing artistic director. Years later, now that he has become a freelance director, it is a remarkable theatrical coda to that portion of his career.
The Lyric Stage Company of Boston production of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” Book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman, music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak. Directed by Spiro Veloudos. At the Lyric Stage Company of Boston through May 22. Lyricstage.com.