Sunday, December 1, 2013
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder ****
Jefferson Mays, established master of multiple roles since "I Am My Own Wife," outdoes himself by playing eight distinct characters in this delightful new Broadway musical by Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics). He portrays all the members of the D'Ysquith family, male and female, who are blocking Monty Navarro's (Bryce Pinkham) ambition to become Earl of Highhurst. The news from Miss Shingle (Jane Carr), an old family friend, that Monty's mother was disinherited by the D'Ysquiths for marrying a Castilian sets Monty on a path of revenge. If the plot sounds familiar, it's based on the same novel as the classic Alec Guinness film "Kind Hearts and Coronets." There are two women in his life, Sibella (Lisa O'Hare), a sexy schemer he can't resist, and Phoebe (Lauren Worsham), a virginal D'Ysquith cousin who falls for him. Part of the fun is seeing how Monty does each family member in. The wonderful Edwardian jewel-box set by Alexander Dodge, the excellent costumes by Lisa Cho, the clever projections by Aaron Rhyne and the amusing choreography by Peggy Hickey add greatly to the experience. Director Darko Tresnjak keeps everything lively. Pinkham manages the difficult task of making us care about a serial killer and Mays is simply amazing. The music, falling somewhere between operetta and music hall, is pleasant and the lyrics are a witty treat. My only quibble is that it's a bit too much of a good thing -- the first act is just short of 90 minutes. I hope that the lack of a star with greater name recognition in the hinterlands will not prevent it from having the success it deserves. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes including intermission.