by Kelly, Manager of Group & Partner Services
A bloody good time is brewing on Broadway, where the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is now slaying audiences at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
As Monty Navarro mourns his mother’s death, he learns the secret of his lineage – his mother is a disinherited member of the aristocratic D’Ysquith (pronounced “dies-kwith”) family, which leaves him now eighth in a line of succession to be the Earl of Highhurst. Sadly, the family wants nothing to do with him (after all, his father was Castillian – and worse – a musician.) Add to Monty’s family woes his difficulty with lady friend Sibella, who declares that she is leaving Monty behind to marry well and climb the social ladder. Monty’s newfound status does nothing to deter her – after all, she notes “as if you could ever be an Earl. 8 people would have to die for that to happen – how likely is that?”
And so the seed is planted.
In a clever storytelling device, Monty narrates the events that occur to the audience through his confessional entries in his diary whilst waiting for a verdict in his murder trial. As we go along, we meet each of the D’Ysquith clan that has succumbed to Monty’s ambition through comic vignettes – Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr. (a cad with a fondness for showgirls,) Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith (whose pompous ode to the 1% “I Don’t Understand the Poor” has several laugh-out-loud moments,) Reverend Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith (a drunken cleric who meets his fate by tumbling from a tower,) Henry D’Ysquith (a nance-like beekeeper whose ode to masculine company “Better With a Man” is a tongue-in-cheek delight,) Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith (whose attempts to out-do the do-gooders leads to her eventual demise,) Lady Salome D’Ysquith Pumphrey (a terrible stage actress,) Major Lord Bartholomew D’Ysquith (who meets an untimely end by literally losing his head,) and finally – Lord Asquith D’Ysquith, Sr., who takes Monty under his wing and is the only D’Ysquith NOT to die by Monty’s hand.
As Monty works his way through his distant relatives, he is also struggling with matters of the heart. While working his way past Henry D’Ysquith, Monty becomes attracted to Henry’s lovely sister Phoebe (a naively kind and proper beauty who thankfully is after Monty in the line of succession and therefore out of harm’s way.) At the same time, Sibella re-enters Monty’s life, bored with her socially acceptable but bland husband. One of the best numbers of the show is the farcical “I’ve Decided to Marry You” in the second act, where Phoebe makes her intentions for Monty known as he attempts to keep Sibella hidden from her in the bedroom…and likewise keep her hidden from Sibella in the parlor.
As the last D’Ysquith meets their maker, Monty’s ascent into Earldom is impeded by one final problem – he is arrested for the one murder he didn’t commit! With some help from his ladies, Monty is eventually let off the hook to reap his reward, and also learns the identity of the other murderer.
Set in Edwardian London, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is based on the 1907 novel by Roy Horniman, which also inspired the 1949 movie “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” starring Alec Guinness. Gentleman’s Guide features book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman , who brings the story to life within a music hall-style set (just one of the similarities to the recent revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood abound in several aspects of this show.) Music and lyrics are by Steven Lutvak, whose delightful operetta-style score is reminiscent of the witty humor of Gilbert and Sullivan, and my main reason for loving the show as much as I did.
Leading the action is Bryce Pinkham, whose earnest and charming portrayal of Monty shows a completely different side from his last Broadway turn as villain Carl in Ghost. Monty’s vastly different ladies are played by Lauren Worsham (Phoebe) and Lisa O’Hare (Sibella.) Both ladies’ beautifully sung soprano make the music even more delightful (and what a joy to see some truly well-done legit singing in a world of pop-rock and big belters!) and their grasp of the show’s style and comedy made for two very engaging performances.
Stealing the show as all 8 departed D’Ysquiths is Jefferson Mays, known in the Broadway community for his excellent work in the solo show I Am My Own Wife (again, playing multiple characters.) Usually, it’s a disappointment when a character dies onstage, but in this case it’s an excitement knowing that Mays will reappear shortly as a new (and most likely even more outlandish) character.
For me, Gentleman’s Guide was a delightful surprise – a witty, clever and incredibly entertaining evening of theatre. It’s this type of show that I hope to see more of on Broadway, and have recommended to many friends and guests. If you’d like to experience this delightful musical comedy for yourself, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us at 212-302-4019 for tickets.