A crisp wind kept the audience bundled up at Solvang’s Festival Theatre as we settled in for the first performance of PCPA’s first show of the summer season, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Set in Edwardian England, the murder/musical tells the story of Montague “Monty” Navarro (George Walker), a washerwoman’s son who, upon his mother’s death, discovers that he is ninth in line to the earldom of Highhurst. His mom, Isobel, belonged to the aristocratic D’Ysquith clan but was disowned when she married Monty’s dad, a Castilian musician.
In an attempt to ingratiate himself with his long-lost kin, Monty sends a letter to Lord Asquith D’Ysquith Sr. (Andrew Philpot), revealing his lineage and asking for a position at the family’s bank house, to no avail. Spurned by his newfound relations, Monty uses nefarious schemes to eliminate the competition. But as the line to the earldom gets shorter, things go pear-shaped for Monty.
The talented actors deliver the Tony Award–winning play’s clever dialog and droll songs — “I Don’t Understand the Poor,” “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying,” and “Poison in My Pocket,” for example — with aplomb, eliciting consistent laughter from theatergoers. Walker’s nimble comedy skills made him an excellent Monty, and Emily Trask’s turn as Sibella was first-rate. But the biggest kudos go to Philpot, who deftly played all of the D’Ysquiths, which included a vegetarian bodybuilder, an unmarried social-climbing woman of a “certain age,” a country squire, and a drunken clergyman.