Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania found an apropos tale to open its season on Friday the 13th.
“A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder,” the 2014 Tony Award winner for best musical, comes to Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., for four shows from Friday, Oct. 13, through Sunday, Oct. 15.
And while this story of a man seeking to kill off the relatives who stand in his way of inheriting a fortune might sound dark, star Colleen McLaughlin assured that the musical has a lighter side with lots of laughs. Robert Freedman and Steven Lutvak wrote a complex, brilliant show stocked with jokes, she explained recently by phone from the tour’s stop in Madison, Wisconsin.
“The writing is just so incredible, but you can’t help but laugh about everything,” said McLaughlin, an Oklahoma native. “The whole entire cast is just laughing. I come out to the wings just to see some of my favorite scenes.”
Set in London in 1909, the show centers around working-class man Monty Navarro (Blake Price), who, after learning he is ninth in line to become an earl, decides to eliminate the relatives between him and the aristocratic title. All the while he hopes to marry McLaughlin’s character, Sibella Hallward.
“I’m kind of this narcissistic girl and kind of a gold digger, so I don’t want to marry him, and he thinks the only way he can win my hand in marriage is to become the Earl of Highhurst,” she said of the role.
Actor James Taylor Odom, meanwhile, portrays all eight members of the D’Ysquith family who become Navarro’s targets. 
“Every scene that James Taylor Odom is in is pretty incredible. … He’s amazing,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin praised the sets for the show, which she described as beautiful, intricate and specific to the characters, but she also noted that Peggy Hickey’s choreography “is pretty incredible.” One song she expects to blow away audiences is “I’ve Decided To Marry You,” whose choreography involves actors entering and exiting through double doors as one character tries to keep two others apart.
“The choreography is so specific. … The rehearsal process was actually really quick, but I think … each of us had to go home and practice with the doors in our apartment just to get it down perfectly,” McLaughlin said. “It was a process but enjoyable.”
The actors worked with a dialect coach to perfect their British accents, but McLaughlin noted learning the songs also posed a challenge.
“The music is beautiful,” McLaughlin said. “(It is a) beautiful score but really intricate, and your diction kind of has to be on point.”
“A Gentleman’s Guide” opened on Broadway in November 2013 and racked up more than 900 performances before closing in January 2016. In addition to best musical, it picked up Tony Awards for best director of a musical (Darko Tresnjak), best book (Freedman) and best costume design (Linda Cho).
McLaughlin described the show as “very thrilling” with “lots of shenanigans.”
“It’s just a night full of laughter,” she said.

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