Review Roundup: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Opens on Broadway - UPDATING LIVE!
Following critically acclaimed, smash-hit runs at The Hartford Stage and San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER opens tonight, November 17, on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
The production stars Tony Award Winner Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham, and features Lisa O'Hare, Lauren Worsham, Jane Carr, Pamela Bob,Joanna Glushak, Eddie Korbich, Jeff Kready, Mark Ledbetter, Jennifer Smith, Price Waldman, and Catherine Walker.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER features a book by Robert L. Freedman, music by Steven Lutvak, and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak. Darko Tresnjak directs and Peggy Hickey choreographs.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: "Half British music hall and half Grand Guignol - garnished with flavors ofOscar Wilde and Gilbert and Sullivan - Gentleman's Guideis a pocket-sized musical that dazzles with lyrical wit, dark comedic fun and bravura showmanship. Intelligent and merry, all the elements work splendidly from start to finish...Based on Roy Horniman's 1907 novel, Israel Rank (stripped of its arguably anti-Semitic tone), and set in Edwardian London, mellow-voiced Bryce Pinkham is charmingly noble and earnest (but not for long) as Monty Navarro...The riotously versatile Jefferson Mays, not only plays the priggish present earl, Lord Adalbert, but all of the relatives Monty must dispose of in order to replace him...Despite its bloody premise, and the warnings of the opening chorus, A Gentleman's Guide To Love And Murder is quite suitable family fun; a civilized entertainment impeccably presented."
Charles Isherwood, New York Times: "Despite the high body count, this delightful show will lift the hearts of all those who've been pining for what sometimes seems a lost art form: musicals that match streams of memorable melody with fizzily witty turns of phrase. Bloodlust hasn't sung so sweetly, or provided so much theatrical fun, since Sweeney Todd first wielded his razor with gusto many a long year ago...Mr. Mays won a Tony Award for playing multiple roles in the Pulitzer Prize-winning solo show "I Am My Own Wife," but the chameleonic performance he gives here makes even that feat seem simple - a matter of filing your nails while whistling "Edelweiss," say. In a true tour de force that is hardly likely to be bettered on Broadway this season (apologies to the magnificent Mark Rylance, and those two knights, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, performing Beckett and Pinter in repertory), Mr. Mays sings, dances, ice-skates, bicycles and generally romps through some eight roles - flipping among personas male, female and somewhere in between - at a pace that sets your head spinning...As each precise caricature of British snootiness or silliness comes bounding onto the stage, Mr. Mays seems to be challenging himself to elicit bigger laughs, and he almost always succeeds. All but one of his characters ends up six feet under by the time this daffy, inspired musical concludes, but his brilliant performance deserves to be immortalized in Broadway lore for some time to come."
Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: "The droll tone and Edwardian setting should lure BBC fans, but this "Guide" has nothing on "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" - the 1985 caper musical that was successfully revived last year. Problem No. 1 is Freedman and composer Steven Lutvak's score, a collection of innocuous music-hall pastiches. The lyrics can be fun, as in "I Don't Understand the Poor," sung by the fox-hunting blowhard Lord Adalbert: "Though my politics are purely democratical/I find the species, frankly, problematical."...The pacing is uneven as well...Meanwhile, the charmless Pinkham - much better as the villain in "Ghost: The Musical" - basically functions as a placeholder during Mays' costume changes."
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "How very daring - a witty musical about a serial killer that Stephen Sondheim didn't write. Fashioned from the ingeniously absurd plot of the novel that inspired the classic Alec Guinness film comedy "Kind Hearts and Coronets," "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" proves an ideal vehicle for the versatile talents of Jefferson Mays. Reveling in his multiple roles, Mays plays eight wacky members of a noble family doomed to die at the hands of a distant heir who covets the family title and fortune. The English music hall format is the perfect performance style for this adorably wicked show."
Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: "The best part: the two leads. Bryce Pinkham sings like a dream and brings great appeal to the murderous Monty. "I Am My Own Wife" Tony winner Jefferson Mays musters big laughs as Monty's victims. Casualty number one, a bucktoothed priest, croaks with just the right mix of hilarity and the macabre...Finally, there's the score, and, alas, it's a bit of bore. Composer Steven Lutvak wrote lyrics with Freedman. Their songs are consistently cute - and that's it. There's not one number that really stands out and at times the music actually slows down the action."
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: "A stylish music-hall mystery in which we know whodunit from beginning to end, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" has lively songs, a congenial villain and a physically and morally flexible mistress...Most important, it has the fine actor Jefferson Mays playing all eight heirs to Highhurst Castle as they're dispatched one after another in comically gruesome ways. What he lacks in finesse as a quick-change artist, he more than makes up for in force of personality."
Jesse Green, Vulture: "...the authors of the new musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder aim for droll comedy; especially in the knock-'em-dead performance of Jefferson Mays as various undearly departeds, they usually hit their mark...what this material needed from its songs, and does not get, is exactly what Mays brought to his task: a strong, clear, distinctive profile. Without it, for all its merits, the show never quite achieves musical liftoff. You want the score to raise the dead, not just bury them."
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: "Mays is as funny evoking the characters' often-grisly ends as he is giving them quirky life. The buff, blustering major is undone by his machismo, while poor, delicate Henry - whose particular fondness for Monty informs the side-splitting duet Better with a Man, one of several catchy, clever songs by composer/lyricist Steven Lutvak and lyricist/librettist Robert L. Freedman - finds his beloved little buzzers turned unwittingly against him...The actor who plays Monty, Bryce Pinkham, is pretty of voice and bone structure, but not a natural comic performer. He loosens up nicely as Guide progresses, though, and receives ample support from a sassy Lisa O'Hare and crystalline-voiced Lauren Worsham, as Monty's rival love interests. Ultimately, of course, this is Mays' show - and he seems to have as grand a time carrying it as you will watching him."
Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press: "The hilarious satire on Edwardian melodrama, featuring the incomparable and seemingly tireless Jefferson Mays in eight roles, opened Sunday night on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre. A gentle, penniless young man, Monty Navarro (given disarming appeal in a star turn by Bryce Pinkham) learns of his late, downtrodden mother's secret aristocratic past as a disinherited member of the wealthy D'Ysquith clan...The music hall atmosphere is enhanced by Alexander Dodge's colorful scenery and a sumptuous variety of period costumes by Linda Cho. Pinkham's surprised delight in each of Monty's deadly successes is a fine counterpart to Mays' rollicking embellishment of his off-kilter characters."
Linda Winer, Newsday: "'A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder' is, at heart, a clever and jolly 90-minute frolic about a mouse of a disinherited Brit who kills his way up the noble Edwardian family tree until he becomes lord of the manor...Alas, this musical-comedy trifle runs a very leisurely 2-1 / 2 hours, not 90 minutes. This fact should not dissuade patient theatergoers who want to relish Jefferson Mays in one of those performances that people will be talking about all season...composer-lyricist Steven Lutvak and author-lyricist Robert L. Freedman deliver saucy impudence of bright operetta pastiche...inkham's Monty seems awfully dull in early flashbacks, but gets more dashing as the character gets sure of himself. Lisa O'Hare, a big talent, brings fascinating confidence and comic timing as Monty's married lover, while Lauren Worsham matches her aplomb as his aristocratic fiancee."
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: "As the Reverend Lord Ezekial D'Ysquith, [Jefferson] Mays is pushed from a church steeple, a bloody scene with Hitchcockian overtones.The murders go on like that, satisfying stand-alone moments that allow Mays to do what he does best: rush backstage, jump into the next costume and play scenes to the hilt. They're delectable schadenfreude. You'll thrill in seeing him bring boundless energy and distinct personalities to his assorted D'Ysquiths of either gender. Pinkham, as well, achieves a tall order, remaining perfectly likable, though his character is committing nefarious acts...If it's escapism you're out for, and you also take pleasure from the suffering of others - after pushing through Times Square to get to a theater during the holidays, you very well may - "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" has the trappings of a fun, lightweight night out. Like many two-for-one offers, it's a rewarding proposition.
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: "Cinephiles will know that Horniman's "Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal" is also the basis for the 1949 British film "Kind Hearts and Coronets" in which Alec Guinness famously plays the eight murdered victims of a distant relative who feels he deserves to be the Duke of D'Ascoyne...Bryce Pinkham in "Gentleman's Guide," on the other hand, is a stage animal who defines the term "handsome devil." As Monty Navarro, he has more than a bit of the imp in him - as if he were Marty Feldman's younger, much better looking brother. Plus he possesses a sumptuous singing voice. Taking over for Guinness, Jefferson Mays can now claim title to the most oft-murdered man in Broadway history. He does Guinness one better, playing not just eight but nine characters. He doesn't erase the memory of Guinness, but you won't miss Guinness either. The musical is a showcase for Mays's many faces, but it is Pinkham who must-and does - carry the evening."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: "During previews, Broadway chatrooms have drawn facile comparison to The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the Tony-winning 1986 Rupert Holmes musical that was given a sparkling revival last season. While there's some overlap in the pastiche score and vintage British music hall-style staging, Gentleman's Guide is far superior, propelled by a rollicking story, humor of the most delectable amorality and the cleverest lyrics assembled in quite some time. Just hearing Mays as the ridiculously posh Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith scoff his way through "I Don't Understand the Poor" (a wicked anthem for the one percent) is enough to restore an audience's faith in musical comedy while getting them in the mood to off some toffs."
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: "...This production's secret weapon isn't the poison in Monty's pocket but Lutvak's jaunty score, which sounds both fresh and period-perfect with its echoes of Gilbert and Sullivan and classic British music hall. And the lyrics are as gut-bustingly clever as anything in The Book of Mormon...No one is likely to get sick of the black comedy in A Gentleman's Guide, which remains winsome and charming despite an alarming surfeit of devious and devilish characters. Quite simply, it's a bloody good time."
Matt Windman, AM New York: "Functioning mainly as a comedic showcase for Jefferson Mays, who shot to acclaim exactly a decade ago for his tour-de-force performance in "I Am My Own Wife," Mays portrays eight different members of the aristocratic Highhurst family, often switching from one to the other in a matter of seconds...With a thin premise, a sluggish book and unmemorable songs that vaguely resemble work by Gilbert & Sullivan and Noel Coward, the show makes for a tiresome 21/2 hours that depend mainly upon Mays' frequent costume changes, death scenes and all-around versatility to lend an air of slapstick. Pinkham, on the other hand, comes off as too affected to garner audience sympathy."
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: ""A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" is a musical wild card, a distant relative to "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," perhaps, but entirely its own thing. It's fresh, and it's tremendously entertaining."
Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: "Everything about the show is so likable. I left Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder having had a perfectly pleasant time with a pair of talented new theatre-writers, in the company of a delightful cast. But rousing? No."
Photo by Joan Marcus