Broadway Series Gives a “Guilty Pleasure” to Audiences of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Posted On June 28, 2017
Review by Alan Jozwiak of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder: Broadway in Cincinnati
They are the sorts of things you know you should not enjoy, but do so anyway—such as a high calorie chocolate confection, a cigarette, or that big fat greasy hamburger. The same can hold true as well for musicals, as witnessed by Broadway in Cincinnati’s Presentation of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.
A Gentleman’s Guide tells the story of Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey), who learns upon the death of his mother that he is ninth in line to be Earl of Highhurst. With plenty of pluck and ambition, Monty sets out to claim his inheritance by killing off each and every member of the D’Ysquith (pronounced die-squith) line so as to become Earl. Along the way, he also woos two women at the same time.
Now this scenario sounds like a recipe for disaster, but in the skillful hands of the musical’s creators, they create a guilty pleasure of a musical where we as the audience actually root for Monty as he works to attain his title. We also laugh at the ways at which the petty and arrogant members of the D’Ysquith family (all played wonderfully by John Rapson) meet their untimely ends.
Created by Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics), A Gentleman’s Guide went onto earn four Tony Awards, including the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical.
The touring production of this musical has a strong cast with plenty of singing power. A standout was the Kevin Massey, who played the lead Monty Navarro. Massey was able to mix equal parts ambition, guile, and charm into the role of Monty Navarro. A murderous precursor to J. Pierrepont Finch from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Massey is wonderful in such songs as “I’ve Decided to Marry You.” In this number, Massey has to both sing and engage in slapstick antics trying to keep the two women he is wooing, Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams) and Phoebe (Kristen Hahn), from discovering that each is in an adjoining room.
The actresses playing Sibella and Phoebe also do a wonderful job at the end of Act II in the song “That Horrible Woman,” where each tries to convince authorities that the other is responsible for a murder of a D’Ysquith family member. Beautifully sung by Kristen Beth Williams and Kristen Hahn, this number highlights the differences between each woman, as well as what attracts them to Monty.
Stealing the show was John Rapson, who played all the D’Ysquith family members. Having one actor playing multiple roles could be problematic, but Rapson pulls it off beautifully by being, at turns, eccentric (the Reverend Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith), self-absorbed (Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith), or arrogant (Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr.). Willing to play both male and female roles, Rapson creates distinct characters for each of the D’Ysquiths and makes their foibles laughable.
The final star of the show is the set, which is really a jewel box stage with its own proscenium and the ability to move its stage floor forward towards to the audience when interior scenes occur. Different parts of the stage can also open up for actors to pop out and address the audience. The proscenium was done up in a late 19th century grandeur, making it all the more fun when an actor unexpectantly uses the set in interesting ways.
In short, this was a beautiful production that did not have any false notes. It is an example of some of the best of what is going the current Broadway musicals, as well as what fine touring shows can offer Cincinnati audiences.
Unfortunately, this musical is a season option, meaning that it is only going to be in town for one week, from January 3-8, 2017. This is a must-see for anyone who loves musicals or wants to have a good time at the theatre.
For more information on tickets, you can visit the Aronoff Center Box Office downtown at 650 Walnut Street, go online at CincinnatiArts.org, or buy through the phone at 513.621.ARTS.