It was nominated for ten and won four Tony awards including “Best Musical” and just arrived at Boston’s Shubert Theatre (only until 10/23!) on its first national tour: A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER! It’s a howlingly funny, sexy, saucy, romantic musical comedy-mystery-farce with a dazzling script, score, sets, costumes, and performances! This is one of the most entertaining evenings at the theater in years!!
The show takes off like a shot, from its freaky funereal opening number to its final hilarious salvo. It seems the noble D’Ysquith dynasty is suddenly dropping dead. We soon learn that this aristocratic family has trouble beneath its upper crust. One Montague Navarro discovers, when his mother Isobel dies, that she was a D’Ysquith– the disinherited daughter of the blue-blooded clan–which makes Monty heir to the title and the fortune! He’s 8th in line to be exact, and as Monty sits in prison writing his memoirs, we in learn in flashback how he climbed the family tree, hacking off one limb at a time…!
The story unfolds like a madcap turn of the century music hall melodrama with touches of Agatha Christie and Gilbert & Sullivan, and a big heaping helping of broad vaudevillian schtick. The action takes place within a proscenium with footlights, against vivid video-projected back drops of each scene. These characters are over the top and out of their minds, singing songs in multipart harmony which requires extraordinary verbal and vocal dexterity. This cast (several from the original broadway production!) is more than up to the musical gymnastics composed by Steven Lutvak, and Robert L. Freedman who also wrote the book.
As Monty, Kevin Massey manages a rich tenor and the right mix of venality and carnality, especially as he seduces a couple of bustled and bowed heroines. There’s his social climbing mistress Sibella played by the gorgeous Kristen Beth Williams with a glorious, um, upper register. And then there’s the lovely, lilting Phoebe his giddy fiancee played by the porcelain-skinned Kristen Hahn with a soprano as sharp as a diamond. The show’s cleverest number is a choreographic tour de force with Monty sandwiched between the two ladies on either side of dual doors to his dueling affections!
Which brings me to the eight D’Ysquith heirs, each dastardly or daft, who stand between Monty and the Earl of Highhurst. These eight are played by one uproariously gifted performer John Rapson. Whether as a buck-toothed cleric holding forth on flying buttresses, an effete beekeeper bleating like a goat on a scooter, or a socialite hot on the trail of philanthropic adventure like a rhino in heat, Rapson brings to each an absurd, demented charm.
By the end of the show, I was deliriously happy; as the tunes continued to scale evermore dizzying heights of harmony, the plot found its final twist upon a twist like an extra dollop on a cone of vanilla soft serve– with a touch of poison…! YOU MUST SEE the brilliant A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER at Boston’s Shubert Theatre– but you only have until Sunday 10/23 to get a ticket! Let my review be your guide.