BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER at SHEA'S BUFFALO Theatre
The sleeper hit A GENTLEMANS GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER took the 2014 TONY AWARDS by storm when it won the coveted Best Musical prize. Not surprisingly, Tony Voters were enthralled with the production, but also realized the potential this delightful chamber sized musical would have touring the country. With it's compact cast and impressive unit set, the provinces are to benefit in attending this charming bon bon that plays out as a cross between a bawdy English Music Hall comedy and a zany British farce. Originally produced by The Hartford Stage and The Old Globe, A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE's journey to Broadway and beyond paid off for all involved.
Set in 1909 London, a young gentleman has learned he is the unknowing heir to a large aristocratic English estate, albeit the 8th in line of succession. In order to achieve what he believes is his rightful entitlement, young Monty Navarro must eliminate all those who are in line. The D'Ysquith heirs ( a ridiculously tongue twisting name) are plucked off, one by one, until Monty achieves his goal. The plot twists include casting a single man to play all 8 of the D'Ysquiths, male and female.
The magic in this production is due in large part to the creative mind of director Darko Tresnjak. His obvious attentive eye with focus on every gesture and mannerism does not go unnoticed. The production bubbles along with a nod to old school theatrical gestures with a hint of modern day sensibilities. What could come off as a mere pastiche instead plays as a polished delight under Tresjak's brilliant TONY AWARD winning direction..
Kevin Massey was perfect as Monty, the conniving gentleman. Employing a pleasing tenor voice, he served as the love interest of two women, Sibella and Phoebe D'Ysquith. Their trio "I've Decided to Marry You" was so carefully staged and choreographed that at it's conclusion the audience was giddy with what they had just witnessed. Kristen Beth Williams was the coy and calculating Sibella, imbuing the role with glamour. Meanwhile Kristen Hahn as Phoebe shone with her lovely crystal clear soprano voice. Her interactions with Massey were ridiculously funny, as any kissing cousin relationship would be.
John Rapson has the Herculean task of playing all 8 D'Ysquith heirs. He rises to the occasion on all fronts, offering a myriad of voices and costume changes that would rival any one man show. His strong voice was not to be outdone by his tongue in cheek delivery of everything from a turn of the century body builder to a pompous reverend to a not so great lady of the English stage. His scene as the final heir was downright hysterical, as he pranced about, arguing with his miserable wife, Lady Eugenia ( played by Kristen Mengelkoch, herself a master at deadpan delivery and voices.)
The score and lyrics by Steven Lutvak was often catchy and deeply grounded in Music Hall and operetta traditions of the early 20th century. RoBert Freedman's TONY AWARD winning book and additional lyrics, based on the novel by Roy Horniman, is wildly entertaining in creating unlikely, yet genuinely funny modes of death for the many D'Ysquiths.
The lovely set by Alexander Dodge was detailed and held innate jokes of it's own, with portraits and statuary coming to life, dizzying projections and swiftly gliding set pieces. Linda Cho's fabulous costumes make the most of the many styles of the period, complementing the Victorian sets.The small ensemble each gets a few moments to shine front and center, showcasing their multi-talented performances.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE beautifully complements the Shea's Broadway season. The appreciative audience took a bit of time to grow accustomed to the intimacy of the production, but it's endearing charm captivated all who were lucky to attend opening night.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER plays at Shea's Buffalo Theatre through Wednesday Tuesday February 22 ,2017. Contact Sheas.org for further information
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