BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical

If you like your Halloween entertainment a little on the wacky-creepy side, you will love Broadway in Detroit's "A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER" now on stage at the beautiful Fisher Theatre. A musical about a serial killer could never be more funny. This show won four Tonys at the 68th Tony Awards in June 2014, including Best Musical. It is based on the 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman and its screen adaptation, the 1949 British film Kind Hearts and Coronets. Characters in the play are penned after real-life English aristocrats, primarily a frivolous British Prime Minister.

The plot revolves around the D'Ysquith family (a play on words for Die Squith), and we watch as eight members in line for the Earldom of Highhurst are killed off so an ambitious young man can claim the title. The fictional holder and his issue, Lord Asquith D'Ysquith, Sr. and Jr. were named after the real Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith; Earl Asquith was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain when the novel was written in 1907. The real Asquith was responsible for all economic and financial matters for Britain; in the play, Asquith is responsible for all economic and financial matters for a large corporation.

Herbert Henry Asquith loved to spend his weekends at his country estate, called The Wharf (or Walton House). In the play, a gay heir named Henry spent his weekends at a similar country home. The Wharf is currently owned by Asquith's great-granddaughter, the actress Helena Bonham Carter and her honey bun, the director Tim Burton (Beetlejuice (1988), Edward Scissorhands (1990), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Dark Shadows (2012), Batman (1989), Sweeney Todd (2007), yadda yadda). Herbert Henry Asquith had a gay son and a daughter; in the play, a gay Henry and his sister Phoebe often live at the country estate.

Herbert Henry Asquith kept a "harem," as his second wife Margot called it, and his favorite lady in this circle was Venetia Stanley Montagu. Asquith wanted her, but she chose another man instead. In the play, a young man named Montague, or Monty (Kevin Massey) wants Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams), but she chooses a more socially advantageous man to marry. While Sibella is married to the other man, she constantly cheats on him with Monty. In real life, Venetia Montagu was Asquith's constant companion for many years; he wrote at least 560 letters to her that we know of. Monty has two women he loves; girlfriend Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams) and wife Phoebe (Kristen Hahn); Asquith had his wife and Montagu.

Asquith became Prime Minister of Britain and was heavily criticized for his obsession with "comfort and luxury." He was supposed to be taking World War I seriously, but was always playing at his weekend homes, golfing, socializing and getting drunk. In the play, all of the heirs apparent are equally self-absorbed, capricious idiots who seem to be just wasting oxygen.

Monty's mother was disowned by the D'Ysquith family; Asquith's gay son (called Puffin) was also disowned, first for not being manly enough, and second for taking up a career in the film industry, which, at that time, was quite disreputable. During his film career he kept a second job as a waiter at Joe Jones' truck stop in Catterick so he could hit on the truckers he served. This did not sit well with The Earl and The Countess Asquith. His dad hated gays, and even ordered Oscar Wilde's arrest for "indecent behavior." This put a severe damper on Puffin's enjoyment of what he loved most. Puffin's next love was music, unfortunately he lacked musical talent. As a cross-dresser he did achieve some success; he doubled in a blonde wig for Phyllis Neilson-Terry in Boadicea (1927).

Lady Salome D'Ysquith Pumphrey is named after Oscar Wilde's play Salomé, the step-daughter of King Herod and the beheader of John the Baptist. Wilde's Salomé is a perverse chick into giving lap dances to her step-father and performing some pretty disturbing necrophilia. After that play, everyone goes to the lobby and throws up.

A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is quite innocuous compared to the love and murder in Salomé. Monty does become the ninth Earl of Highhurst, and watching these lunatic relatives die off in the process is very satisfying, at least in the Halloween sense. Kevin Massey is adorable, he's irresistibly cute and charming; his character is kind of like Prince Harry - a little bit naughty - but fun because he's not a stuffed shirt.

Everyone is dying to see John Rapson, who plays all eight D'Ysquith cousins who get offed in the musical. Rapson grew up in Washington, Michigan and graduated from Rochester's Stoney Creek High School. He studied at the University of Michigan and graduated in 2009 from their musical theatre program.His Broadway credits include: LES MISERABLES (Grantaire/Bamatabois, u/s Javert, u/s Thénardier). Tour and Regional: LES MISERABLES, Disney On Classic (with the Tokyo Philharmonic), Sweeney Todd, Brigadoon. This man is a pure genius. In GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE he plays a creepy English parson, a muscle head body builder obsessed with the size of his "manhood," a blithe bee keeper, a diva of the stage, ambitious heiress who craves attention for her good deeds; a masculine janitor, and other assorted aristocrats. It is difficult, at first, to realize he is all these characters. He gives away his identity later in the play by using the same nervous laugh heard once before; at that moment you could cotton on, but it's not likely until after the show, when you do a "post-mortem" as it were.

Written by Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics), this musical is delicious! A masterful homage to Gilbert and Sullivan, A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER skillfully re-creates the manic heyday of the English music hall and the apex of 19th-century operetta. It perfectly captures the caricature of British snootiness.

Direction is by Darko Tresnjak, with choreography by Peggy Hickey. The design team includes Alexander Dodge (Scenic Design), Linda Cho (Costume Design), Philip S. Rosenberg (Lighting Design), Dan Moses Schreier (Sound Design), Aaron Rhyne (Projections Design), Brian Strumwasser (Make-Up Design), and Charles LaPointe (Wig Design). Orchestrations are by Jonathan Tunick and Vocal Arrangements are by Dianne Adams McDowell and Steven Lutvak. Paul Staroba serves as Music Supervisor.

8 p.m. Tue.- Fri., 2 & 8 p.m. Sat., 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sun.

Through Oct. 16

Broadway in Detroit

Fisher Theatre

3011 W. Grand Blvd, Detroit

313-872-1000

www.broadwayindetroit.com

$39-$95

high res photos

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical


The cast with John Rapson as Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith (red) in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical
Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D'Ysquith and Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical
. The cast with Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro (left) and Megan Loomis as Tour Guide (right) in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical
John Rapson as Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical
Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro, Matt Leisy, and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical
(L-R) Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and Mary VanArsdel as Miss Shingle in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical
Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward and Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical
The cast with John Rapson as Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical
(L-R) John Rapson as Henry D'Ysquith, Megan Loomis, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Is the Perfect Serial Murderer Musical
(L-R) Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D'Ysquith in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

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