Friday, November 22, 2013

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder @ The Walter Kerr Theatre

In recent seasons, Broadway has seen a lot of musicals based on popular movies or revivals of classics, so when an unfamiliar story comes across, people are bound to take notice. Housed in the beautiful Walter Kerr Theatre, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, a new musical based on Roy Horniman's 1907 novel, Israel Rank: the Autobiography of a Criminal has something for everyone: comedy, romance, and as the title suggests, homicide.

A Gentlman's Guide begins with an ensemble of mourners dressed in black warning us that "those with weak constitutions" were better off leaving. We then see an almost play-within-a-play; a smaller, vaudeville-esque stage with lush curtains is the main focus as protagonist Montague Navarro (Bryce Pinkham) narrates his tale. Monty finds out soon after his mother's death that he is actually a part of the prestigious D'Ysquith family, and is in fact ninth in line to be the Earl of Highhurst. In order to win the attention of the beautiful (yet snobbish) Sibella (Lisa O'Hare), Monty devises a scheme to “off” the remaining D'Ysquiths and claim the title of Earl, and even catches himself falling for the demure Phoebe D'Ysquith (Lauren Worsham). The action is shown in a series of vignettes , helping to create the play within a play motif.
Credited as "The D'Ysquith Family," Jefferson Mays makes an impressive performance as all eight victims. His distinctions between each character were so remarkable, it takes a few deaths to even realize they're all him. From the effervescently effeminate Henry D'Ysquith to the outrageous drag of Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith, Mays' performance needs to be seen. The entire cast, ranging from seasoned veterans and those making Broadway debuts, make up an ensemble that is extremely strong despite its small size.  Alexander Dodge's artfully crafted set, along with Aaron Rhyne's striking projection design steal the show. And although at times Robert L Freedman and Steven Lutvak's score felt like it was somewhat repetitive, audiences walk away humming tunes like "Why Are All the D'Ysquiths Dying?" and "Better With a Man."

Entering the performance, based on advertising and even from the impression of the opening number, I was expecting a very dark, macabre musical. However despite the warning, those with "weak constitutions" needn't fear: think less Sweeney Todd and more Thoroughly Modern Millie with a taste for blood. A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder could be, dare I say, perfect for a night out with the family: appropriate enough for tween audiences with the right amount of adult themes. It is a delightfully bloody tale that should be taken notice of.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder opened on November 17 and currently plays at the Walter Kerr Theatre.  

Photos By: Joan Marcus
Review By: Kelcie Kosberg

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