John Rapson (Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith) and Cast in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (photo by Joan Marcus)
We welcome this review from new theater contributor Philip Dickerson.
Stella Adler once said, “The theater was created to tell people the truth about life in the social situation.” If that is true there was no better time for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, the 2013 musical by
The star of this non-stop, quick-paced, larger-than-life comedy is Monty Navarro (played by Kevin Massey), an earnest young bachelor living a quiet life in remote England. Grieving over the recent death of his mother, he discovers that he is a distant relative of, and possible heir to the famous D’Ysquith family. Resolved to avenge his late mother, who was cast out by the D’Ysquiths, Navarro reaches out to Lord-to-be Asquith D’Ysquith Jr. (John Rapson), who dismisses it. Undeterred, Navarro seeks out the six other heirs to the D’Ysquith fortune, all played with incredible energy by Rapson, embarking on a journey of love, murder, and a hint of revenge.
The production is filled with tight physical and vocal performances. The style is reminiscent, perhaps too much, of the 2005 hit Spamalot, heavy on tongue-twisting lyrics and instantly memorable melodies. The vocal casting hit its peak about a third of the way through the production with the entrance of Adrienne Eller's Phoebe D’Ysquith. Her quirky curiosity and genuine desire to connect with someone draw her close to Monty Navarro, who is of course not your typical D’Ysquith. Eller’s soprano voice gives life to her first duet with Massey during the song Inside Out and is a continued treat throughout the rest of the evening.
Nelson Pressley, Tony winner ‘Gentleman’s Guide’ is good but not a killer (Washington Post, January 14)
Kristen Page-Kirby, ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder’ tests the show’s star dresser (Washington Post, January 13)
In the end, this production is a night of enjoyment. Strong performances from Massey and Eller are matched by Rapson’s endless arsenal of D’Ysquith family members. When considering the bottomless bag of gags and tricks Rapson displayed, one must also applaud the team of costumers backstage ready to create a new D’Ysquith in seconds. Add in an extremely well-rounded cast of talented actors, a clever and colorful set by Alexander Dodge, and lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg, and you are left with a show that does not disappoint.
This production runs through January 30, in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater. Run time is about 2 hours and 45 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission.
CORRECTION--In the first version of this review, the creators of the musical were mistakenly identified as John Rapson and Kevin Massey, who played the lead roles. Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak created the musical.