A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – A Holiday Recommendation

A REPRINT of our November 2013 review

Credit: Joan Marcus

Credit: Joan Marcus

This is a nearly perfect show.  It sets out to be a confection of light entertainment and achieves that goal in every way possible.  Mind you, this is not my cuppa tea in general, but that is not the point.  The point is that all the parts come together exactly as they were meant to, and thus we have a cube of sugar that is exquisite.

Based on the movie “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” that in turn was based on the 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman, this is the story of Montague (Monty) Navarro (Bryce Pinkham) whose father was Castilian. And worse, a musician. The elder Navarro died when Monty was 7, leaving his mother to raise him alone.  It was not an easy life, and Isabel never spoke of her family, who it turns out, had disowned her.  On the day of Isabel’s funeral Monty is visited by Miss Shingle (Jane Carr) who is employed at the house of D’Ysquith (pronounced DIE-squith), who arrives, like a fairy godmother, to tell Monty that the dream of every child in the world has come true for him.  He is from a Noble family.  His mother was Isabel D’Ysquith.  She sings to Monty

You are the son of the daughter

Of the grandson of the nephew

Of the 2nd earl of Highhurst!

There are only 8 people between him and the title of Earl.  This is intriguing news, and initially Monty makes the proper moves by seeking employment from  Lord Asquith D’Ysquith, Chief Officer, D’Ysquith Banking House.  When he is refused, and the existence of his mother denied, Monty choses a more direct route.  Beginning with the Reverend Lord Ezekial (Jefferson Mays) who catches a gust of wind while Monty looks on without offering assistance, Monty takes it upon himself to revenge his mother and climb up the D’Ysquith family tree until he stands at the top.

Jefferson Mays has the thrilling task of playing all 8 of the D’Ysquith heirs – and if he were having any more fun I think he would explode.  Old, young, male and female.  He tackles them all – aided by a team of dressers who deserve their own standing ovation.  The murders are rendered without blood, and each character is dispatched with a bucket full of laughs.  Ice cracks, bees go wild, a gangplank falls short, and there are even a few natural causes.

Of course none of this would be any fun at all without some romance of the naughty and not so naughty kind.  Monty is in love with two women.  Sibella Hallward (Lisa O’Hare) his first love who threw him over for a man with money, and Phoebe D’Ysquith (Lauren Worsham) – she is not in line for the money because she is girly girl – both of whom return his affection with a vengeance.  When he is with one, he is thinking of the other.    Hallward and Worsham are nothing short of brilliant, and Steven Lutvak has created his most complex and captivating music in his duets for these tow women as well as the more expansive numbers that include them.

The second act is the stronger of the two as we settle into the last death and Monty’s future, which is suddenly in doubt.  Surprises and double dealings abound in both book and music.  In the end all is sort of well, WELL.

In tales such as this, nothing is as it seems.  So we all leave the theatre having been hooked and landed – and happy to be so.

This is a show for all ages.  A cube of sugar that you will not want to spoil by plunking it into a teacup.  This one you will place directly on your tongue and see how long you can make it last.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman; music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak; based on a novel by Roy Horniman; directed by Darko Tresnjak

WITH: Jefferson Mays (Asquith D’Ysquith Jr./Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith/the Rev. Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith/ Lord Asquith D’Ysquith Sr./Henry D’Ysquith/Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith/Maj. Lord Bartholomew D’Ysquith/Lady Salome D’Ysquith Pumphrey), Bryce Pinkham (Monty Navarro), Lisa O’Hare (Sibella Hallward), Lauren Worsham (Phoebe D’Ysquith), Joanna Glushak (Newsboy/Lady Eugenia), Eddie Korbich (Actor/Mr. Gorby/Magistrate), Jeff Kready (Tom Copley/Newsboy/Actor/Guard), Roger Purnell (Chauncey), Jennifer Smith (Tour Guide/Newsboy), Price Waldman (Newsboy/Actor/Chief Inspector Pinckney), Catherine Walker (Miss Barley) and Jane Carr (Miss Shingle).

Choreography by Peggy Hickey; sets by Alexander Dodge; costumes by Linda Cho; lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg; sound by Dan Moses Schreier; projections by Aaron Rhyne; hair and wig design by Charles LaPointe; orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick; music director, Paul Staroba; vocal arrangements by Dianne Adams McDowell and Mr. Lutvak; music coordinator, Seymour Red Press; production stage manager, Susie Cordon. Presented by Joey Parnes, S. D. Wagner, John Johnson, 50 Church Street Productions, Joan Raffe and Jhett Tolentino, Jay Alix and Una Jackman, Catherine and Fred Adler, Rhoda Herrick, Kathleen Johnson, John Arthur Pinckard, Megan Savage, Shadowcatcher Entertainment, Ron Simons, True Love Productions, Jamie deRoy, Four Ladies and One Gent, Greg Nobile, Stewart Lane and Bonnie Comley, Exeter Capital/Ted Snowdon, Cricket CTM Media/Mano-Horn Productions, Joseph and Carson Gleberman/William Megevick, Dennis Grimaldi/Margot Astrachan, Ryan Hugh Mackey, Hello Entertainment/Jamie Bendell, Michael T. Cohen/Joe Sirola, and Green State Productions, in association with the Hartford Stage and the Old Globe. At the Walter Kerr Theater, 219 West 48th Street, Manhattan, 212-239-6200, telecharge.com. Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes.

Tulis McCall

Author: Tulis McCall

For my money, the theatre is up there in the ten top reasons to be human. I leave my home and go sit in a dark room with complete strangers and watch actors do their stuff because I want to be inspired. I’m asking to be involved. I’m volunteering to be led down any old path they choose as long as they don’t let go of my hand. And if I see a show, and it is NOT so very good – I will try to divert you, because I don’t want you to come to the temple when the preaching isn’t up to snuff. I will bar the door, I will swing from rafters, I will yell FIRE just to set your feet on a path that does not lead to disappointment. Do something different with your evening I will say. Save your money for dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in months because you are too frigging busy. Go take a walk with your dog or your child or your significant other. Go to bed early, I will say. Don’t come to the theatre when it is less than it can be. I’m an usher snob, and that’s all there is to it.

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