Hotspots Exclusive Interview with Chuck Ragsdale
The Tony Award winner for Best Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, will play the Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa from October 20-25, as part of the Bank of America Best of Broadway Tampa Bay series.
Gentleman’s Guide tells the uproarious story of Monty Navarro, a distant heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession, by any means necessary. All the while, he’s got to juggle his mistress (she’s after more than just love), his fiancée (she’s his cousin, but who’s keeping track?), and the constant threat of landing behind bars! Of course, it will all be worth it if he can slay his way to his inheritance…and be done in time for tea.
The most celebrated musical of the 2013-14 Broadway season, Gentleman’s Guide received ten 2014 Tony Award nominations, eventually winning four awards: Best Musical, Direction of a Musical, Book of a Musical and Best Costume Design. In addition, it won the Best Musical prizes from the Drama League, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle, and received a 2015 Grammy Award nomination for Best Musical Show Album.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder features a book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak. Direction is by Darko Tresnjak, with choreography by Peggy Hickey. The design team includes Alexander Dodge (Scenic Design), Linda Cho (Costume Design), Philip S. Rosenberg (Lighting Design), Dan Moses Schreier (Sound Design), Aaron Rhyne (Projections Design), Brian Strumwasser (Make-Up Design) and Charles LaPointe (Wig Design). Orchestrations are by Jonathan Tunick and Vocal Arrangements are by Dianne Adams McDowell and Steven Lutvak. Paul Staroba serves as Music Director.
Gentleman’s Guide opened at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre to overwhelming critical acclaim in November 2013 where The New York Times raved, “Gentleman’s Guide will lift the hearts of all those who’ve been pining for what sometimes seems a lost art form.” The Hollywood Reporter enthused that Gentleman’s Guide “restores our faith in musical comedy!” and Time Magazine said, “Just as I was about to give up on musicals, along comes A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder!”
Performances are Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Regularly priced tickets are $45-$95, and may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at strazcenter.org. Handling fees will apply.
Chuck Ragsdale is one of the leading cast members in this first nationwide production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Originally from Durham, North Carolina, he was cast in his first theatre role at the age of eight in a dinner theatre production, and his love affair with the stage has continued to this day. I spoke with him for this exclusive Hotspots interview before the company arrives in Florida.
How excited are you to be a part of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder‘s first nationwide production?
I’m elated. We just had our incredibly dazzling opening on Wednesday night at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago, and it was one of the most electrifying evenings I’ve ever spent in the theater. It’s no small feat to take a Tony Award-winning musical out on the road, and to be on this set with these people and in these costumes and under these lights, it’s absolutely wonderful. I feel like this show is a love letter to musical comedy.
How much preparation does it take to get a musical like this one ready for the road?
We rehearsed in New York City for four weeks. After a couple of studio run-throughs, where the producers, creative team, and everyone were all invited, we then went to Schenectady, which may sound odd on paper, but this town has a theater that’s great for housing large shows, and it’s somewhat close to Manhattan. This period allowed us to ease into the physical touring production. We were there for two-and-a-half weeks and had just shy of a week of actual previews for audiences.
What would you say to audiences here in Florida to ensure they’ll buy tickets to see this new production?
Well, first and foremost, we’ve got that shiny Tony Award with us, and that holds a rather high level of pedigree in the theater industry. When you have a Tony, you know that the production is as good as you’re going to get!
I feel like people who don’t know much about the show are the best audiences, because they are in a position to fully appreciate this musical, which is a refreshing breath of musical comedy air. The quote that we’ve used a lot to promote the show is that it’s “the undisputed king of musical comedy,” and it’s really true, because this is a musical that only comes along once every few years. It pays homage to musicals in a fun and ridiculously silly way. To combine all of those elements into one evening is nothing short of amazing. There’s something for everyone — old-school and new-school theater-goers alike.
For more information about the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and its upcoming events, please visit strazcenter.org. For additional information on Gentleman’s Guide, visit AGentlemansGuideBroadway.com.