Zaniness With A Dark Side At The Fox As Tony Winner “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder” Brings The Laughs

gent-trioLoaded with laughs, impressive performances and a “killer” set, “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder” sweeps into town at the Fox Theatre. We root for the anti-hero as there are more laughs than murders- and that’s because the murders are quite funny as well.

With book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak, this one is based on the original source material of the wonderful Alec Guiness film “Kind Hearts And Coronets” in which Guiness plays the eight members of a family that have to be eliminated in order for a wrongfully abandoned member to become the rightful heir. In this production, John Rapson takes on that role and becomes almost unidentifiable in each guise as he brilliantly dies time and time again over the course of this two act musical. He does everything from falling through the pre-sawn ice while skating to shooting himself (or, in this case, “herself”) while playing Hedda Gabler to being attacked by bees to the quite mundane dying of natural causes (although poison may have played a role).

gent-ladyAs the perpetrator of all of these nefarious deeds is Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro. When his late mother’s long time friend, Miss Shingle (the perky and quite snoopy Mary VanArsdel)  pays a visit, she reveals that he is in line to inherit the estate and holdings of the powerful stock exchange magnate, Asquith D’Ysquith. His mother had been disinherited by the family after he was born. So it soon becomes his mission to literally get away with murder multiplied by eight to regain the wealth and prestige he feels he is owed. Massey is superb as he wins over the audience with one preposterous ruse after another to reach his goal.

gent-policeHe is ably and surreptitiously abetted by his one true love, Sibella, played with the proper haughtiness and sex appeal by Kristen Beth Williams. Since she believes Montague to be on the fast track to poverty, she abandons him to marry a man she believes will be rich and influential. She soon learns of Monty’s “potential” and pries her way back into his life. In the meantime, Monty has found comfort with one of the D’Ysquith cousins (someone he doesn’t have to kill, thankfully), Phoebe. Adrienne Eller is a real charmer but we soon find she can have a dark side as well.

gent-iceA small ensemble keeps things busy as they play multiple roles to flesh out the individual stories of these family members who meet their Maker. But with the inimitable John Rapson bouncing around the stage, all eyes are usually on him and guessing what fate may befall him as a member of the D’Ysquith family. Along the way we are treated to some quite wonderful and clever musical numbers including the rhapsodic “I Don’t Understand The Poor” from Lord Adalbert (Rapson), “Better With A Man” with Henry (Rapson) and Monty and “Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun” (again, Rapson). One of the show stoppers is when Monty tries to keep Sibella and Phoebe from discovering each other in “I’ve Decided To Marry You.” Almost like a French farce, two doors separating two rooms by a hallway keeps the action going while all three manage to sing while doors are slamming and women are being separated from each other.

gent-mansThose doors and the clever “toy stage” set design is the clever work of Alexander Dodge who, in conjunction with projection designer Aaron Rhyne bring a striking set and even more impressive special effects to the show. Musical director Lawrence Goldberg brings the wonderful score to life and director Darko Tresnjak keeps the play moving at near break-neck speed throughout.

gent-table“A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder” is one of the funniest musicals you’re likely to see this season. The dark humor and splendid cast make it a treat not to be missed. It plays at the Fox Theatre through September 25th.

 

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