What can turn an early 20th-century play by Hungarian dramatist Ferenc Molnar into a super-successful chamber musical? A little Sondheim, a little cynicism, and a lot of wit brings Molnar’s popular play “The Guardsman” to modern audiences in the form of Enter the Guardsman, a delightful musical that may just be heralding the future of musical theatre.
Staying true to Molnar’s plot, Scott Wentworth’s book tells of a couple, the Actor and the Actress, whose onstage chemistry far out-sizzles their off-stage relationship. As their marriage is only six months old, the Actor is worried, and fears his wife has found new passion with another man. He cooks up a scheme to discover the truth by creating a false admirer, then sending his own wife flowers and love letters from the anonymous man. The scheme reaches a climax when he lures her into a set up for infidelity, disguised as the handsome Guardsman. Does his wife see through the plot all along, or does she in fact entertain her desire for something new and exciting? With music by Craig Bohmler and lyrics by Marion Adler, this story of jealousy, trickery, and faltering desires is enormously entertaining throughout, with plenty of humor to contrast intense human emotions.
By comparison to some unwieldy musical giants that have recently dominated the musical theatre, Enter the Guardsman appears quite simple – only three lead roles along with a few delicious supporting characters, with minimal set requirements and one irresistible plot line. Absurd? Actually, quite refreshing, many critics have found. The combination of a distinct, purposeful plot, an original score complimented by clever lyrics, and characters with some, well, character to them makes this show an easy success with audiences who crave something new and delightfully different.
The show made its first appearance at Denmark’s first annual Musical of the Year competition. Against hundreds of entries from all over the globe, and judged by a panel of musical theatre professionals, Enter the Guardsman took home first prize. Later described as a “dark horse” in the competition against more traditional musicals, it was recognized for its sophistication, innovation and successful integration of plot, music, and character development. The show was quickly picked up by London producers and has since been staged all over the United States.
If you’re looking for something unexpected and sure to please, Enter the Guardsman might be just the show to complete your next season!