The 2017 California Musical Theater’s production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder was nothing short of amazing. This travelling show is full of several intricate set pieces, decadent lighting cues, rapid costume changes, and a hilarious story full of love, murder, and money.
Even after being seated at the very back of the audience, I was able to view the set with complete clarity at the Sacramento Community Theater. Performed on a proscenium stage, this set was comprised of multiple elements. One of the most noticeable pieces was an automated level that moved downstage, often during the beginning of a new musical number. This piece gave dimension to the show, indicating big musical moments were coming. Another stand-out piece was the use of animation. After touring backstage, us students were surprised to find out that it was not just one large projector screen, rather it was hundreds of small screens hooked to several wires which allowed for a very clear picture that could be seen all the way in the back.
Several drops were also used during the show. Every time location changed, a new drop would come down. These included Monty’s various homes, Sibella’s place, the D’Ysquith family house, the tower, the snow, outside for the bee scene, etc. There were several other set elements that were quintessential to the story and really amplified the performance. Examples include one of the D’Ysquith family member’s head being decapitated, where after it fell it jiggled in correspondence with the body. The crew working backstage later explained that this is made possible by a member holding fishing line attached to the head backstage and jiggling it around. Another really artistic and effective elements was the use of feathers to represent blood when a woman of the D’Ysquith family accidentally shoots herself in the head. Apparently several feathers are shoved into an air blaster stage right and are shot during the scene. One last piece that stood out to me was a piece during the home scenes where actors would position their heads in these frames. It created a very ominous, ghost like illusion, very much like the talking paintings in Harry Potter.
I was astounded to hear just how little timing this travelling show had to set up and prepare for the new venue. They travel with over six truck loads full of equipment, and have around twelve hours total to unload, set up, and test the set. Needless to say they do not get very many hours of sleep.
I was incredibly impressed by this production. The acting, sound, lighting, and set quality was amazing. Each department seems to work very well with one another and are well versed in several areas. The show was absolutely hilarious and made for a Tuesday night full of laughter and surprise.