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Theater Review: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

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A delicious serving of murder and mayhem delights the audience in this hysterical Tony-winning "Best Musical."

TPAC’s Broadway Series presents:
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (Jan. 24 – 29; Ages 10 & older)
TPAC’s Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 • tpac.org
Remaining showtimes: Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 & 8 p.m., Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25 – $75

Winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder is a fierce theatrical comedy that’s truly one of the most entertainment contemporary musicals to hit Broadway in recent years. In fact, not since Chicago and Sweeney Todd has murder and mayhem been so deliciously executed center stage.

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With book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak, Gentleman’s Guide is loosely based on Roy Horniman’s 1907 novel, Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal. The stylish comedy centers around a penniless young man, Monty Navarro (superbly portrayed by Kevin Massey), who, upon his mother’s death, discovers he’s ninth in line to become the Earl of Highhurst. Come to find out, his mother was a disinherited member of the aristocratic D’Ysquith (pronounced DIE-squith) family. Both drama and comedy ensue when Massey’s character takes matters into his own hands to eliminate the eight D’Ysquiths standing in the way between him and his claim to the castle.

It comes as no surprise that Gentleman’s Guide nabbed the Best Musical accolade, because the show’s wicked sense of humor lets the plot unfold in a way that’s more manic and madcap than morose — in fact, this production is perfectly suitable for kids. Each of Monty’s cleverly crafted ploys to pick off those standing between him and his fortune is greatly enhanced by Alexander Dodge’s imaginative set design. It features a classic stage within the stage complete with rear screen projections and moving set pieces that humorously aid in the execution of the D’Ysquith members’ untimely deaths.

Speaking of those dastardly D’Ysquiths, the wildly talented John Rapson plays all eight of them, from Lord Adalbert to Lady Hyacinth. Rapson is great fun to watch and he seamlessly morphs from one character to the next with much flair and flamboyance, making him the true standout star of the show. Hands down, Rapson delivers the most comical moments in Gentleman’s Guide, which include funny numbers like “I Don’t Understand the Poor” and the tongue-in-cheek “Better with a Man.”

Within the framework of the story also exists a comical love triangle between Monty and two ladies, Sibella and Phoebe, played by Kristen Beth Williams and Kristen Hahn, respectively. Both ladies shine bright vocally, and the three of them deliver one of the best musical moments in the show, the drama-infused, door-slamming “I’ve Decided to Marry You.”

Gentleman’s Guide comes with an unexpected twist toward the end involving the death of the final D’Ysquith. It’s exciting for the audience to go from being on the inside of the hijinks with Monty to being catapulted into sudden suspense.

It’s an absolute delight to experience a musical like Gentleman’s Guide that’s purely fun and highly entertaining. It’s the kind of show that provides the perfect escape from reality for two-and-a-half hours with a heavy dose of comic relief your family is certain to love.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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