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Director Darko Tresnjak's Guide to a Tony-Winning Show

Photo by Joan Marcus.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, which plays the Ahmanson Theatre March 22–May 1, 2016, arrives in Los Angeles with four Tony Awards®, including Best Musical and Best Director, under its belt. But while the gentleman at its center, Monty Navarro, makes murder look easy, the show itself had a long journey to Broadway. Director Darko Tresnjak, who has been with the production since its World premiere, spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about why he loves the show, and what is in store for audiences of the North American tour. The early details of his involvement with the show are hazy, but he explained:

I just know that I fell in love with this show, and when I became the artistic director of Hartford Stage [in 2011], the first thing on my mind was, ‘I have to do this,’” said Mr. Tresnjak. “Everybody believed in it along the way, and it was nurtured all the way through the process, from Hartford to the Old Globe in San Diego to Broadway. So many things can go wrong along the way, but we had a lot of good steps every step of the way.

That included casting actors for the tour.

The process for casting a new version of the victims for the tour was, in a word, “exhaustive,” Mr. Tresnjak said. “We just kind of made up our minds we were going to be pleased, no matter how long it took.”

He said that actors coming in doing impressions of the original stars were immediately dismissed. The team was looking for a fresh start, a search that led them to Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro, the amorous, ambitious killer of his kin, and John Rapson, a “Les Miserables” understudy for several roles on Broadway....

“Jefferson Mays [who originated the roles played by Rapson on tour] has this extraordinary physical versatility. John Rapson has an almost operatic voice. It’s an extraordinary thing. So it was a very different experience,” Mr. Tresnjak said. “And you know, Jefferson is maybe 5-10 and around my weight, 150. And John is a big guy, and that became a part of it. You use everything that’s in front of you. It’s fun.”

Tresnjak also talked about what makes the score so special:

The wordplay and satirical songs in “Gentleman’s Guide”—including “I Don’t Understand the Poor”—would seem to be direct descendants of Gilbert & Sullivan, but Mr. Tresnjak said there’s another important influence.

“Mozart, too—I know that Steven warmed up to write the show by listening to the overture for [Mozart’s] ‘Cosi fan tutte,’ ” he said.

“For all of the people who sing in the show, it requires that kind of crystal clear soprano—legit singing. For example, if people don’t know opera, then Julie Andrews comes to mind for that kind of pristine diction and just beautiful singing. So none of this wailing banshee crap that I can’t stand.”

The director laughs. “I’m not referring to Broadway necessarily. You know what I mean.”
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