By Chris Heide
Keeping in tone with its recent tradition of high quality productions, the 5th Avenue Theatre recently debuted A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder, which is on its first national tour. The show is a rousing, fast-paced tour-de force. In today’s cacophony of big ticket, dramatic musicals, A Gentleman’s Guide is a breath of fresh air. It’s a brilliant musical comedy that helps to reinvigorate that sub-genre of live musical theater. A Gentleman’s Guide is definitely not Book of Mormon. While brilliant in its own right, this show is much more nuanced and seamless.
According to the official press release, “Gentleman’s Guide tells the uproarious story of Monty Navarro, a distant heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession, by any means necessary. All the while, he’s got to juggle his mistress (she’s after more than just love), his fiancée (she’s his cousin but who’s keeping track?), and the constant threat of landing behind bars! Of course, it will all be worth it if he can slay his way to his inheritance… and be done in time for tea.”
A Gentleman’s Guide is briskly paced show. It’s a non-stop barrage of musical numbers- the majority of the book is sung rather than spoken. Very rarely does the show drag. The energy is consistent and frenetic from start to finish.
Leading the cast are Kevin Massey (Gentleman’s Guide, Memphis) as Monty Navarro and John Rapson (Les Misérables) as the eight members of the D’Ysquith family. Massey is consistent as the ambitious Navarro, but it is Rapson who truly steals the show. Through the sheer force of his own creative brilliance, Rapson creates eight distinct personality, all of whom are equally memorable. His comedic timing is sharp and effortless throughout the entire show. He simply steals every scene he is in.
Other standouts include Kristen Beth Williams (Pippin, Nice Work…) as Sibella Hallward and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D’Ysquith. The best number in the entire show comes late during the show. I’ve Decided to Marry You is hands down the more flawless, rapturous number of the entire show. Performed by Massey, Williams and Eller, this number drew the most voracious applause from the audience.
A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder truly restores the faith in a nearly lost art form- the zany musical comedy. It’s must see live theatre.