Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Gentleman's Guide To Love & Murder at the Walter Kerr Theatre

Injustice! Revenge! Murder! Great fun!

If you are looking for a true musical comedy on Broadway look no further than the Walter Kerr Theatre. The wonder and whimsy of English Music Hall tradition, gleeful farce and a soaring operetta score that for once is actually written for classically trained voices will satisfy audiences that enjoy a silly evening of theatre. Oh, what a lovely lark is the delicious twisted new musical A Gentleman's Guide To Love & Murder.

Based on the 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of A Criminal by Roy Horniman the story may seem somewhat familiar. The same material inspired the 1949 British film Kind Hearts and Coronets starring Sir Alec Guinness famously playing eight different members of an aristocratic family. While the names have been changed, perhaps to shame the guilty, A Gentleman's Guide To Love & Murder simply delights itself in embracing its rather macabre story.

Monty Navarro discovers after his mother's death that she was a disgraced member of the D'Ysquith family who disapproved of her marriage. By a stroke of luck Monty learns he is ninth in the line of succession to the Earldom. Seeking out his estranged family he is initially rebuffed leading dear Monty to begin to plot the demise of his snobbish new family and claim the Earldom avenging his mother's honor. Along the way Monty experiences love, lust, revenge and regret, all the while improbably getting closer to his goal.

Director Darko Tresnjak keeps the pace of this blackest farce brisk never letting the audience forget the fun in Monty's rise through ever more creative forms of murder. Alexander Dodge has created a set evokes the English music hall tradition. The marvelous score by Steven Lutvak compliments the outrageous story presented through Robert L. Freedman's book and lyrics.

The small ensemble of actors mostly portray multiple roles, no one more than Jefferson Mays, who like Sir Alec Guinness in the film plays most of the members of the D'Ysquith family. Mr. Mays gives an amazing performance which is sure to be recognized during awards season. Despite the outrageous characters he must portray, several with very little time for quick costume changes, he manages to make each one have a distinct personality. While most of the characters are played strictly for laughs, a few such as Lord Asquith D'Ysquith Sr. evoke real emotional feeling.

Bryce Pinkham has rakish charm as the murdering social climber Monty Navarro. Mr. Pinkham has a delightfully expressive face that allows him to charm the audience keeping them rooting for his success. Monty's two love interests, the shallow Sibella (Lisa O'Hare) and the sweet Phoebe D'Ysquith (Lauren Worsham) have stunning voices which complement the operetta-style score.

If you are looking for a fun evening of theater that defines musical comedy for the 2013-2014 theater season you could do no better than to lose yourself for a couple of hours with the zany A Gentleman's Guide To Love and Murder.

A Gentleman's Guide To Love & Murder is being performed at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York City. For tickets and other performance information please visit or

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