The day of his mother’s funeral, Monty Navarro, a penniless clerk, learns that he is ninth in line to inherit the earldom of Highhurst. It is revealed to him that his mother was a part of the D’Ysquith family but she was disowned for marrying for love and not for money. Monty attempts to connect with his relatives but they disregard his claims of kinship. After the eighth D’Ysquith dies, Monty decides to hasten his inheritance and bolster through the family line. Each D’Ysquith is played by one actor, making the ridiculous plot even more entertaining. On top of all the insanity, Monty is stuck in a love triangle between the money hungry Sibella Hallward and the young D’Ysquith Phoebe. How will all these convoluted storylines come together?
Gentleman’s Guide received a very successful run on Broadway, earning ten 2014 Tony Award nominations and winning four including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Costume Design. Selma Arts Center is excited to bring this hilarious dark comedy to the local stage for the Central Valley premiere. The company is hard at work to make this show unique while keeping true to its Vaudeville roots and Edwardian setting. This requires highly strategized physical comedy and very specific physicality.
To get a little bit of more information on Gentleman’s Guide we asked directors Michael Christopher Flores and Dakota Simpson a few questions.
When and where is this show set?
Dakota Simpson: Various Locations in Europe in 1909, mainly London.
This show is well known in the theatre community, so it is no hard sell for the average theatergoer. However, what should the everyday person know about this show?
Michael Christopher Flores: The show is a hilarious and over the top comedy that is filled with beautiful costumes, distinct choreography, and a beautiful score.
Simpson: Contrary to popular belief this show is actually a comedy, and with this specific production we have taken a lot of liberties (while keeping the textual integrity of the show) making it more accessible to a more broad audience demographic.
This show is known for having one of the most complicated roles to play in theatre history. Explain “The D’Ysquith Family”.
Simpson: Monty Navarro (a common raggard played by Aaron Pierce) is in love with a woman and is in line to become Earl of Highhurst. That being said, eight family members stand between him and his goal, The D’Ysquith Family. Playing women, men, older, younger all distinct and various characters ranging in dynamic and all equally horrid!
With the dialect, the costumes, the insane vocals, and the over the top storyline, how do you approach such a beast of a musical?
Flores: The show is witty and quirky and I think we’ve kept true to the humor the show possesses but have made it our own by incorporating stylized movement throughout.
Everyone in the cast has a physicality in each individual character they play that is very specific. Their movements intertwine with each other. I think audiences will enjoy that very much while finding it visually appealing. The costumes also play a major role in the show and we plan to really indulge in the Victorian aesthetic with help by costume designer Damen Pardo.
Simpson: This show has always been a passion play for me, personally. So having an immense understanding of not only the text but the style of theatre (Music Hall, Vaudeville, Satire with a hint of Macabre, etc.) one must rely on the strength of their actors. They bring countless hours of energy, choices and points of view that one sole entity simply cannot muster. I have also had the privilege of working with an amazing production staff! And of course, my better half (Flores) creating such a flowing movement design for the piece. It truly is a treat to behold every night!
photos by Michael Christopher Flores