Pentacle’s newest musical features music, comedy, romance, bloodlust and 90 costumes

It’s the early 20th century in England, and Monty Navarro has learned a way to turn his fortunes around. He was unknowingly an aristocrat, and could become an earl.

The only problem is the eight people ahead of him in line set to inherit.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is a Tony-award-winning musical comedy that follows Monty’s quest to jump the line by killing his unsuspecting relatives while navigating romantic drama. Salem’s Pentacle Theater will perform it starting Friday, Sept. 29.

“This young man tries to ingratiate himself to the family. They don’t really give him a lot of opportunities, until something happens. And then he takes that opportunity, capitalizes on it, and climbs the ladder in a most auspicious way,” said director Loriann Schmidt.

The show is a lightning-fast comedy, and Schmidt said the cast of five plus the ensemble have natural comedic timing and chemistry up to the task. Seasoned actor Lance Nuttman plays all eight doomed heirs.

It’s the first community theater performance for Salemite Kamil Finger, who plays Monty. Finger, a student at South Salem High School, previously did roles in school, Schmidt said.

“You cast people who you can trust with the role,” she said. “As a director, the analogy I often use is that you just bat the ball ever so gently to keep it rolling down the lane. My job is to set the ball in motion.”

Actor Lance Nuttman, left, performing alongside South Salem highschooler Kamil Finger in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Pentacle Theatre in September, 2023 (Courtesy/ Vicki Woods)

The musical features operatic singing, which Schmidt said theater actors don’t often get to showcase.

A highlight of the performance is the costumes. It took a team of ten to put together over 90 complete costumes for the show, many of them worn by Nuttman.

“Some of Lance’s quick changes are 15 to 20 seconds,” she said. “It was a really demanding piece for our costume team and they really rose to the occasion.”

The backstage crew includes a team of over 30 to run the music, microphones, projections and mountains of furniture props.

“It’s really quite insane,” Schmidt said.

She first saw the show put on in Portland, a little over a year before the pandemic.

“It just blew me away. I was so intrigued by the whole show and just laughed hysterically. The whole thing is such a farce,” she said. “The characters are fantastically ridiculous, but totally believable. It really shines a light on a lot of things about our human nature that we wish we could ignore.”

Schmidt said audiences should come prepared to laugh.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” runs from Friday, Sept. 29, to Saturday, Oct. 21. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.

Pentacle Theatre is located at 324 52nd Ave. N.W. Tickets range from $20 to $45, and area available online or by calling 503-485-4300. Students and Oregon Trail Card holders are eligible for a 50% discount.

Clarification: A previous version of this story listed the start date as Sept. 9 on first reference, but Sept. 29 in later references. The play opened Sept. 29.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.