BWW REVIEW: Boston Gets Schooled in A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER

BWW REVIEW: Boston Gets Schooled in A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER

Book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman; music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak; directed by Darko Tresnjak; choreography by Peggy Hickey; scenic design, Alexander Dodge; costume design, Linda Cho; lighting design, Philip S. Rosenberg; sound design, Dan Moses Schreier; projection design, Aaron Rhyne; hair and wig design, Charles G. LaPointe; make-up design, Brian Strumwasser; orchestrations, Jonathan Tunick; vocal arrangements, DiAnne Adams McDowell and Steven Lutvak; music director, Lawrence Goldberg; production stage manager, J. Jason Daunter

Cast in Order of Appearance:

Monty Navarro, Kevin Massey; Miss Shingle, Jennifer Smith; Sibella Hallward, Kristen Beth Williams; Asquith D'Ysquith, Jr. et al, John Rapson; Tour Guide, Dani Marcus (Kathy Voytko at the reviewed performance); Miss Barley, Catherine Walker (Dani Marcus at the reviewed performance); Tom Copley, Guard, Matt Leisy; Phoebe D'Ysquith, Kristen Hahn; Lady Eugenia, Kristen Mengelcoch; Mr. Gorby, Magistrate, Christopher Behmke; Chief Inspector Pinckney, Ben Roseberry

Performances and Tickets:

Now through October 23, Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont Street, Boston; tickets start at $45 and are available at the Box Office, online at www.citicenter.org or by calling 866-348-9738.

BWW REVIEW: Boston Gets Schooled in A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDERTight harmonies and an even tighter cast make the first national tour of the Tony Award-winning Best Musical A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER delicious fun. Now at Boston's Citi Center Shubert Theatre through October 23, this totally original musical comedy by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak crackles with snappy wit and endlessly clever songs.

With a wink and a nod to British music hall melodramas, A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE joyfully follows young Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey) as he climbs over bodies and up his family tree to claim the money and social position he believes he deserves. Discovering that his recently deceased mother was in fact a disinherited D'Ysquith, he sets out to avenge her honor and stake his claim. The only problem is there are eight heirs ahead of him. So to become the Earl of Highhurst and win the hand of his beloved Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams), he must take his fate and theirs into his own hands.

With escalating absurdity, Monty eliminates each impeding D'Ysquith with surprising ease. Yet, as the body count grows, so do the stakes of being caught. Complications also ensue when Monty becomes genuinely fond of his mentor, the senior Lord Asquith D'Ysquith, and subsequently falls in love with Miss Phoebe D'Ysquith (Kristen Hahn), sister to the foppish Henry whom he has just dispatched. Obstacles notwithstanding, Monty eventually clears the way to his inheritance. But his ascension may be short-lived as an unexpected plot twist adds a dash of mystery to his murders.

BWW REVIEW: Boston Gets Schooled in A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDERThe trope of doing away with one's relatives to inherit a fortune could grow tiresome, but A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE smartly keeps the laughs rolling by featuring one actor as all eight victims. The wonderfully versatile John Rapson struts, stammers, barks, and prances his way through Lords and Ladies each of whose demise is more ridiculous than the last. Rapson's varied characters are made all the more cartoonish thanks to Linda Cho's wry costumes that undergo seemingly split-second changes from one scene to the next. The musical's pace never lags, and each new death, though deliberately telegraphed, comes about in ways that are uproariously unforeseen.

Director Darko Tresnjak and his nimble cast strike just the right balance between slapstick and satire in this devilishly lighthearted romp. Kevin Massey is a completely sympathetic anti-hero who seems as surprised at his successes as he is unnerved by them. The voluptuous Kristen Beth Williams and bookish Kristen Hahn are the perfect polar opposites to fan Monty's flames. Jennifer Smith is a rousing instigator Miss Shingle, and Kristen Mengelkoch shares a riotous love/hate relationship with Rapson as a growling Lady Eugenia to his snarling Lord Adalbert.

Alexander Dodge's versatile proscenium set morphs splendidly from traditional British music hall into opulent Edwardian drawing rooms, lavish English gardens, a stately country manor, and even an eerie overgrown cemetery complete with a D'Ysquith family mausoleum. Humorous touches abound, with set pieces and projected backdrops becoming hilariously animated.

In so many ways, A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is an unexpected pleasure. The music is smart, the staging is clever, and this national touring company is a well-oiled machine firing on all cylinders. Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak have crafted a thoroughly entertaining piece of musical theater that delivers laughs right till the final curtain.

There are four more performances in Boston this weekend. Catch it while you can.

PHOTOS BY Joan Marcus: John Rapson as Henry D'Asquith and Kevin Massey as Monty; Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella, Kevin Massey and Kristen Hahn as Phoebe; John Rapson as Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith and the Company of A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER

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From This Author Jan Nargi

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