Catch him if you can. Santa Clara resident Michael Hirsch plays the entire D’Ysquith family of Highhurst, London in 1907 — all nine of them — in the hilarious and clever musical farce A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.
In this story of revenge, which opened on Broadway in 2013, a disowned member of the D’Ysquith family tries to kill off all those ahead of him in the line of succession so that he can become the ninth Earl of Highhurst, inherit a fortune and win love.
In the musical’s current South Bay Musical Theatre production, Hirsch brings to fleeting life each doomed D’Ysquith, including the one who “graciously died on his own.”
Unlike a cat with nine lives, Hirsch doesn’t survive his multiple, on-stage murders. Rather, he is reincarnated after each death as a different contemporary member of the family.
When Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith, a globe-trotting benefactress, dies abroad mysteriously, Hirsch resurfaces as Major Lord Bartholomew D’Ysquith, a doomed bodybuilder.
Costumes, wigs, hats, monocles and three dressers enable Hirsch to change characters in a flash. Add to that, a change of voice, bearing and mannerisms and — like a rabbit out of a magician’s hat — he suddenly appears center stage as a different D’Ysquith.
“He’s phenomenal, an outstanding performer,” said Debbie Hilpert from San Jose at a performance. “You can really get into his characters. He has a way of pulling me in.”
Hirsch is a finalist for “Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role in a Musical” in the 2019 Theatre Bay Area Awards.
His featured role was as “The Duke” in Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, produced early this year by South Bay Musical Theatre. Award winners will be announced at the 6th annual TBA celebration on Nov. 4 in San Francisco.
Hirsch has come back to the theater strong after a 17-year hiatus in performing that gave him time to marry and raise a family.
Like most community theater performers, he moonlights in the theater. He works full time as a senior group product manager for Shutterfly in Redwood City.
“In product management, you get to work with smart, interesting people — and pay your bills,” said Hirsch, who studied theater at Kent State University in his native state of Ohio and at Michigan State University.
He came to California in 1997, living first in the Los Angeles area.
“I always loved acting and performing, but the practical side of me didn’t want to be based as an actor in New York or LA. I didn’t want to live there and travel all the time and have to take every job offered me just to pay rent,” said Hirsch.
“I like to audition and go for roles that interest me. It’s hard to have a family and travel all the time.”
Hirsch and his wife, Yvonne, have lived in Santa Clara since 2007 and have two teenagers.
“As an actor, I’m truly living all the lives a normal person would not be able to live,” said Hirsch. “I get to be a lord, Will Rogers, a carpet bagger in Mississippi.
“Imagine living all these lives and telling all these stories about all these people. Who gets to do that?”
Catch Hirsch if you can — and all the other outstanding performers that are your neighbors moonlighting in the theater — in South Bay Musical Theatre’s production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.
It runs through Oct. 19 at the Saratoga Civic Theater, 13777 Fruitvale Ave., Saratoga. For tickets and information, visit www.southbaymt.com.
“Bay Area community theater is good and growing,” said Hirsch. “There are diverse people and ranges of talent that come together and do something special — people I’d not normally be able to meet. That’s a real treasure.”
For those normally in the audience who would like to experiment with performing, South Bay Musical Theatre offers classes in dance, music and acting — a class Hirsch recently taught.
“It’s amazing what happens when you just step out the door. There’s opportunity everywhere,” said Hirsch.