Last night, I saw ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ (from here on GGLM) at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The show is like an English farce made into a musical and by Americans!
GGLM tells the story of Monty Navarro who discovers that he is actually a member of the D’Ysquith family and eighth in line to become Earl. Madly in love with Sibella, a beautiful society girl, Monty wants to do everything in his power to speed up the process of succession so that he may provide everything that Sibella dreams of. Along the way, we meet the members of the family, all played by Jefferson Mays in the show’s standout performance. We also meet Phoebe D’Ysquith, who is desperate to compete with Sibella for Monty’s affections after her husband…dies.
As Monty, Bryce Pinkham is light hearted, energetic and vocally on point. His innate sense of comic timing and incredibly alive facial expressions give his character a warmth and humour that pulls the audience on side within seconds. You want him to succeed, no matter how he goes about it. Lisa O’Hare as Sibella and (for my performance) Pamela Bob as Phoebe, play with Monty’s emotions to such an extent that you can only feel sorry for the man. They sing their roles superbly, ‘I’ve Decided to Marry You’, the group’s trio in the second act, is by far the highlight of the show musically.
As every member of the D’Ysquith family, Jefferson Mays delivers a virtually faultless performance. Every character is deeply constructed, unique and seemingly, even more hysterical than the last. The best of the best, his portrayal of Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith and his song, ‘I Don’t Understand the Poor,’ one long extended joke about the British Upper class and their view of those below them.
GGLM enjoys excellent direction and choreography from Darko Tresnjak and Peggy Hickey, who understand the over the top nature of the writing, but also manage to humanise each character. The set design is flexible, efficient and simple, and the lighting helps the audience to follow what, at times, can be a very fast paced script.
GGLM has an excellent book, excellent music and an excellent cast. There really is a lot to enjoy in this production and it is no surprise to me that it took out Best Musical at this year’s Tony Awards. It is also, satisfyingly, not adapted for the stage, it is a work all of its own, designed specifically for the stage. And it shows.