Review: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder *****

I’ll be honest: of the three shows I booked for my New York trip, this was the one I had the least expectations for. I’d heard good thing but didn’t know that much about it and booked it at the last minute. While Something Rotten arguably fell below its expectations, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder far exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed it immensely while watching it and probably have an even more fond appreciation since listening to the soundtrack. Why it hasn’t been confirmed for a London run yet is beyond me, as it fits perfectly into the genre of which Play That Goes Wrong has revived the nation’s love.

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Lisa O’Hare as Sibella (OBC), Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro, and Lauren Worsham as Phoebe (OBC). Source: American Theater

A farce through and through, the story follows Monty D’Ysquith, the ninth Earl of Highhurst as we witness his rather peculiar rise through the ranks to becoming the next Earl. With love, murder and mayhem, it’s a laugh a minute with comedic twists at every turn. And that’s just in the final number. The audience actually gasped! Audibly!

Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak’s book and lyrics make for a perfect  combination of comedic and clever. ‘To lose one relative one could certainly forgive, but how could you excuse losing two or three or four OR SEVEN’, ‘Yes Wodsworth I told you, I’LL BE JUST A MOMENT’, ‘The thought occurred to me, why should I believe a woman who could very well be insane?’, ‘Help me you presumptuous climber’.  I think I was the only one to laugh at Sibella’s ‘It’s a bit much for Clapham’, said while wearing a corseted dress. But then again I think I was the only English contingent in the audience watching a show mocking the English! There are also some lyrically brilliant numbers including ‘Lady Hyacinth Abroad’, ‘That Last One You’d Expect’, and ‘I’ve Decided to Marry You’. ‘Poison in my Pocket’ is probably my favourite number, which plays around with three separate harmonies and layers in the song, which I love.

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Jefferson Mays as Lady Hyacinth. Source: New York Times, Sara Krulwich.

Bryce Pinkham led the cast as Monty Navarro, making for a lovable and charismatic rogue. His little nods to the audience breaking the forth wall are written well and played even better by Pinkham. He knew the role inside out and his comedic timing is spot on, particularly in the memoirs scene. On the night we went, the D’Ysquith family was played by Greg Jackson, who did a stellar job in the role..roles. I can’t imagine stepping into one role as short notice, let alone EIGHT! He shone as Henry and Lady Hyacinth, but vocally was a tad stretched on the other parts. Kudos though to Jackson and the backstage team for those quick changes!

Scarlett Strallen’s Sibella is utterly loathable and lovable and her chemistry with Pinkham is brilliant. Catherine Walker rounded out the main cast as Phoebe whose vocal control is astounding. The scenes she shares with Strallen were hilarious, even those when they don’t know the other is there.

Verdict: hilarity, heinous crimes and heightened British accents. But reaaaaallllly, why are all the London theatres not dying for a transfer?

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