A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    November 1, 2013
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    Review by Tulis McCall
    23 November 2013

    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 chooses 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 two 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. It’s 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.

    (Tulis McCall)

    "Turn(s) murder most foul into entertainment most merry."
    Chrles Isherwood for New York Times

    "A musical can have everything else going for it, but without a great score it’s got a hole in its heart. Case in point — the fun but flawed 'A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.'"
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "The melodies aren’t very interesting."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "It's fresh, and it's tremendously entertaining."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "I find it amusing and stylishly done but a bit twee."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "This bright little jewel is a legitimate treat."
    David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter

    "Adorably wicked show."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter - Variety