Four-time Tony-winning musical, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” brings its wickedly wonderful tale to Nashville this week as the National Tour sets up shop at TPAC‘s Jackson Hall from Tuesday, January 24 through Sunday, January 29. For those not familiar with the winner of 2014’s Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Costume Design, it’s the story of a young man of meager means who suddenly discovers he’s actually a member of the famed, and very wealthy D’Ysquith family. Only problem is, he’s eighth in line and will likely never inherit the family fortune…unless all those who stand in line before him suddenly die.
Offering a bit more insight to this wickedly wonderful musical tale, I recently had the chance to chat with Kristen Hahn, Kristen Beth Williams and Ben Roseberry, three members of the cast for an abbreviated round of my recurring celebrity interview feature, Rapid Fire.
Rapid Fire with Kristen Hahn, Phoebe D’Ysquith in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
JONATHAN PINKERTON: Alright, so your show has a very wordy title. The longest play title likely goes to 1963’s “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton, Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade” aka “Marat/Sade”…but I digress. In seven words, without using the title itself, describe the show.
KRISTEN HAHN: Fun, hilarious, colorful, romantic, mischievous, suspenseful, adventure-filled!
JP: You came to the National Tour of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” after having appeared in the Broadway production. During your time with the Broadway production, you got the chance to understudy several roles. now that you’ve joined the tour, you’re playing Phoebe D’Ysquith. Tell me a little about Phoebe and how she figures into the story.
KRISTEN HAHN: Phoebe D’Ysquith is a sweet, young, aristocratic lady who crosses paths with Monty one day in the English countryside. She has been leading a sheltered existence as the guardian of her brother’s estate, but once she meets Monty, she becomes inspired to break out of her shell and go after the things she really wants in life — and, of course, what she wants is Monty!
JP: Near the end of Act 1, Phoebe and Monty duet on “Inside Out” which begins, “An oyster shell itself is unassuming but look inside, you’ll find a pearl.” What’s been the best ‘pearl’ about being part of “Gentleman’s Guide”?
KRISTEN HAHN: There are truly so many “pearls” about being a part of “Gentleman’s Guide”! I never get tired of singing the gorgeous music or sharing this magnificently hilarious story with audiences every night. The costumes are to DIE for (see what I did there?) and such fun to wear — I feel like a princess each time I put them on. Also, this has to be one of the most extraordinarily kind and funny group of humans I’ve ever worked with — I truly love being around them and laughing with them daily.
Rapid Fire with Kristen Beth Williams, Sibella Hallward in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
JP: As “Gentleman’s Guide” opens, a jailed Monty D’Ysquith Navarro recalls the circumstances that lead him to be awaiting execution. As the story unfolds, we meet your character, Sibella. Monty loved her but she refused to marry him because of his lack of wealth and position. I’ve gotta ask…Is Sibella to blame for Monty’s eventual apparent murderous ways?
KRISTEN BETH WILLIAMS: Loved? Past-tense? 😉 I think his love for Sibella, and his desire to impress her, causes Monty to set off on his pursuit of the Earldom. Is she to blame? I don’t think so. I think Monty and Sibella are very similar people – they both will do whatever it takes to get what they want. It just takes Monty a bit longer to figure it out.
JP: During its inaugural Broadway run, the show was nominated for an impressive ten Tony Awards, winning four. Among the wins, Linda Cho’s gorgeous costume design. What’s the best and most challenging aspect of performing in period authentic early 1900s costumes?
KRISTEN BETH WILLIAMS: The best: I know I look amazingly glamorous and sexy in all my costumes. The worst: trying to move/sing/breathe in a proper, 1900s corset. But beauty is pain, right?
JP: Within the context of the show, what’s easier, love…or murder?
KRISTEN BETH WILLIAMS: They’re both quite complicated, actually… I only really deal with the love part, and that is all so horribly complicated! I love Monty, but I marry Lionel. Monty loves me AND Phoebe. Phoebe and I both love Monty. Monty is a good, kind man…who is also a murderer… I don’t think there’s anything easy about that.
Rapid Fire with Ben Roseberry, Chief Inspector Pinckney in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
JP: While preparing to chat with you and your co-stars, I discovered “Gentleman’s Guide” is based on the 1907 novel “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal”, which was also the source of the 1949 British dark comedy, “Kind Hearts and Coronets”. Did you check out either after landing the role of Chief Inspector Pinckney?
BEN ROSEBERRY: I certainly did check both out. I always do as much research as possible in taking on projects. It’s a delight to be a part of a show that has such a rich and textured history.
JP: Prior to our chat, I spoke with Kristen Hahn and Kristen Beth Williams, two of your “Gentleman’s Guide” co-stars. There’s a third Kristen in the cast. Kristen Mengelkoch who plays Lady Eugenia. I understand this isn’t the first time you and Mengelkoch have worked together?
BEN ROSEBERRY: Kristen Mengelkoch and I met 5 years ago at the Geva Theater in Rochester. We were cast together as Paul and Amy in “Company”. She is, to this day, my favorite scene partner I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. It’s a blast to do this show with her every night. Every once in a while I play the D’Ysquith Family (the lead role which I understudy) and it’s great, because we spend 20 minutes just yelling at each other during act 2!
JP: “Gentleman’s Guide” isn’t your first national tour. You were part of the tenth anniversary “Rent” tour, and you also toured with “The Lion King”. What’s your favorite part of life on the road?
BEN ROSEBERRY: My favorite part of tour life is getting to see this beautiful country with my wife, Sarah, who travels with me (a tradition we started with “The Lion King”). I’m so lucky to have her along for the ride. Over the years I’ve picked up many tricks of the trade from road life, and modern technology also makes it easier every year. Travel can be exhausting, but also incredibly rewarding. At the end of the day, I’m getting paid to do what I love and see the country!
JP: In addition to musical theatre, lately you’ve been involved in another passion project as frontman for The Fractured Years. The group’s debut cd dropped last spring. As a musician, are you excited to take in some of the sights and more importantly… the sounds of Nashville? After all, we are Music City, USA.
BEN ROSEBERRY: I could not be more excited to be in the Music City! I’m going to try and take in as many shows and see as many things as I can. As for The Fractured Years, it’s a project that I’m incredibly proud of. I poured my heart and soul and 15 years of music into that record, and I think it shows. Maybe someday we’ll be lucky enough to play Nashville!
With that, my all-too-brief chat with the “Gentleman’s Guide” stars came to an end, but with a show centered around multiple murders and many romances–all involving one man, there’s so much more to the story. Nashville audiences will have their chance to see the deception, devotion and dastardly deeds of the D’Ysquith dynasty as they take to the stage of Jackson Hall at TPAC from January 23-29. Click Here for tickets. For more information about the show, Click Here. Not in Nashville? No worries, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” continues its current National Tour through March with stops in Orlando, Buffalo, Costa Mesa and Sacramento. Be sure and ‘like’ “Gentleman’s Guide” on Facebook and follow the show on Twitter for the latest news about the Tony-winning show. Be sure and hashtag all your “Gentleman’s Guide” love with #GGLAM.
If you’ve enjoyed this chat with the cast of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”, check out other recent Rapid Fire interviews and don’t forget to subscribe to Nashville Arts Critic by entering your email address in the “Subscribe” section to the right of this article. You can also follow us on Facebook,Twitter, Pinterest and Tumbler. Interested in coverage of your performing arts events, be sure and drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.