by Beki Pineda

THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER – Book and Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman; Music and Lyrics by Steven Lutvak; Directed by Michael Querio. Produced by Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre (800 Grand Avenue, Grand Lake) through August 23. Tickets available at 970-627-3421 or rockymountainrep.com.

I’m going to tell you about the one show I got to see in Grand Lake this summer, but I’m also going to encourage you to make the trip up the hill to see any of the fine shows they are presenting this summer. A true rep company, they are bringing three shows to visitors to Grand Lake this summer and one for the fall season . . . a most delightful time to visit. Besides GENTLEMEN’S GUIDE, they are also alternating performances with ANNIE and THE FULL MONTY. So you can either see a delightful and offbeat musical murder story, little girls scrubbing floors and singing about tomorrow, or boys making money and music by stripping down to the altogether. If you wait until after August 31st, you can visit a combination diner and gas station during PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES. Something for everyone.

GGTLAM does not follow the usual pattern of painting the “hero” as a good guy and excusing all his misdeeds. Our hero, Montague “Monty” Navarro (Russell Mernagh), at his mother’s death discovers that she had been ostracized by her titled family back in England when she married for love instead of property. Finding himself ninth in line of succession to the Earldom, he vows revenge on the family that treated his beloved mother so badly. His plan is to knock off all nine and become the Earl himself. The rest of the evening follows his antics as he tries to make this happen.

Even the lady leads are not the usual true blue sweethearts. Reflecting Monty’s dual personality, he loves both a “bad” girl who marries for wealth even though she loves him (Maya Rowe) and a distant cousin – the “good” girl – from the family he hates (Taylor Margaret Johnson). Being torn between the two creates some of the funniest situations in the script.

The somewhat-noble family of D’Ysquith’s – all nine of them – are portrayed by one actor. They are all just snobbish and cold enough that we don’t really mind seeing them croak in unusual ways. Only one shows Monty the least bit of kindness. This daunting task falls on NY professional actor, Josh Kellman, returning for his seventh season with RMRT.

The production is well supported by a talented ensemble of singer/dancers who perform in all three shows. In a rep company, everyone participates to a different degree. For instance, Mr. Mernagh who has the lead in this show also takes a lead role in THE FULL MONTY and then gets to relax a little by being an ensemble member in ANNIE. The actors come from New York, Chicago, and other ports of call. Colorado is represented by Valerie Igoe playing Lily in ANNIE and an ensemble part in this production. P. Tucker Worley from the Arvada Center joins the company for PUMP BOYS.

Michael Querio, the Executive Artistic Director of Rocky Mountain Rep, always seems to be able to get the rights to perform the newest shows as one of his offerings each summer. This production of GENTLEMEN’S GUIDE is the first in the state but most assuredly won’t be the last. So drive up the hill and  you can have bragging rights to say, “Oh, I saw that last summer up in Grand Lake!”

A WOW factor of 8.5!!