Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
National Tour at the Kennedy Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose and The Critic and The Real Inspector Hound


Kristen Beth Williams, Kevin Massey,
and Adrienne Eller

Photo by Joan Marcus
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical, and audiences who see the touring production in the Eisenhower Theater at Washington's Kennedy Center through January 30 will understand why. It's cleverly plotted, ingeniously staged, and sumptuously cast.

The plot derives from a 1907 British novel that was also adapted for the 1949 British film Kind Hearts and Coronets, and the musical shares the movie's device of using a single actor to portray eight members of the same aristocratic family. Authors Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics) keep the story in its original early 20th-century time period, with literate lyrics and tunes that borrow from era-appropriate operetta and music hall forms.

The central character is Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey), who is living in genteel poverty when he learns that his late mother was a member of the D'Ysquith family, disinherited for marrying the Castilian musician she loved instead of a man of her own social class. Eight members of the family (all played by John Rapson) stand between Monty and the title Earl of Highhurst, and Monty is determined to restore his place in the succession by any means necessary.

To demonstrate that everything is in good fun, director Darko Tresnjak and scenic designer Alexander Dodge stage Monty's murderous and romantic adventures as a series of tableaux on a small, diorama-like stage with its own curtain and projected backgrounds. Monty intermittently narrates the proceedings from a downstage corner representing the cell where he awaits execution for murder. (Not a spoiler.) Dodge's sets, enhanced with Aaron Rhyne's photographic projections, take the characters to locales that include the tower of an ancient church, the conservatory of a country house, the skating pond at a winter resort, and an ancestral hall where the portraits sing and the suits of armor dance.

Massey conveys a boyish quality that makes Monty seem merely a mischievous scamp (think an Edwardian version of J. Pierrepont Finch) even as the figurative blood flows. Rapson provides a delightful gallery of eccentrics—the tipsy one, the fey one with the odd chuckle, the supercilious youth, the dithering society dame, and so on—with the inestimable aid of Linda Cho's costumes and a highly skilled dresser.

Kristen Beth Williams and Adrienne Eller demonstrate fine singing and comic skill as the two contrasting women in Monty's life, while Kristen Mengelkoch walks away with her scene as the imperious wife of the current earl.

Kennedy Center
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
January 13th - 30th
Book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman
Music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak
Based on a novel by Roy Horniman
Monty Navarro: Kevin Massey
Miss Shingle: Mary VanArsdel
Sibella Hallward: Kristen Beth Williams
Asquith D'Ysquith, Jr.: John Rapson
Tour Guide: Megan Loomis
Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith: John Rapson
Reverend Lord Ezekial D'Ysquith: John Rapson
Miss Barley: Lesley McKinnell
Lord Asquith D'Ysquith, Sr.: John Rapson
Henry D'Ysquith: John Rapson
Tom Copley: Matt Leisy
Phoebe D'Ysquith: Adrienne Eller
Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith: John Rapson
Newsboys: Matt Leisy, Ben Roseberry, Megan Loomis, Kristen Mengelkoch
Major Lord Bartholomew D'Ysquith: John Rapson
Lady Salomé D'Ysquith Pumphrey: John Rapson
Actors: Ben Roseberry, Matt Leisy, Christopher Behmke
Lady Eugenia: Kristen Mengelkoch
Mr. Gorby: Christopher Behmke
Chief Inspector Pinckney: Ben Roseberry
Guard: Matt Leisy
Magistrate: Christopher Behmke
Chauncey: John Rapson
Ensemble: Christopher Behmke, Matt Leisy, Megan Loomis, Lesley McKinnell, Kristen Mengelkoch, Ben Roseberry
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Choreographed by Peggy Hickey
Eisenhower Theater, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or www.kennedy-center.org


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