A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder at the State Theatre

Adrienne Eller and Kevin Massy in "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."

Adrienne Eller and Kevin Massy in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”

You’ve been waiting for this one, right? A fresh new writing and production team, a ridiculous premise, the Tony Award for Best Musical … Well, I’m here to tell you, the wait for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” is worth it. It’s fast, it’s farcical and funny, funny, funny!

This is intelligent, consistently witty writing—particularly the book and lyrics (and when do I ever say that?) I loved how this stellar ensemble took its outrageous premise to the edge—repeatedly—always backing away at just the right moment and whisking us off to another delightful bit of theatrics.

Furthermore, this well-crafted show is wedded seamlessly with a charming jewel box set, sumptuous costumes, and just the appropriate amount of technical wizardry. The realization of its overall artistic premise suggests a near perfect collaboration among designers, directors, writers and the ensemble. Either nobody got his or her way or absolutely everybody did. I think the latter. It was beautiful to look at and dazzling in it’s tongue-in-cheek trickery.

It had to be to keep up with the story! I have never heard so much patter from so many singers. It was teetering on the point of too much, but that’s hardly a flaw. Gilbert and Sullivan dished out their share, but generally relegated to one character. In this show, everybody gets a patter song. Craziness!

Underneath it, though (as in all good comedy) is a serious premise: A young man, Monty Navarro, who would do anything for the woman he loves, is equally bent on avenging his recently deceased mother’s mistreatment by her family. He also discovers that he’s a Dysquith and 8th in line to inherit the family title.

Monty, played by Kevin Massey, is a charming and decent enough sort, but he’s dreadfully poor and so completely unsuitable for his self-absorbed lady-love, Sibella, played by Kristen Beth Williams.

“Has it never occurred to you to marry for love?” he asks her.

“Oh, Monty,” she answers. “Now you’re being cruel.”

Big laugh. You can guess where the plot is heading…

The tall and curvaceous Williams also has a powerhouse voice with an impressive range. She’s a knockout on “Poor Monty” (“Poor Me”). And no, marriage doesn’t do much to slow down their affair.

Sibella will, however, have to face the diminutive but determined Phoebe (Adrienne Eller), Monty’s cousin—and a suitable bride for Monty’s purposes.

Massey’s steady tenor makes for a rich and wonderful duo paired with Eller’s sparkling soprano on “Inside Out” and a zinger of a showstopper with Williams and Eller on “I’ve Decided to Marry You.” Not much dancing in this show, but it’s highly choreographed movement, which Massey pulls off with ease.

Impressive trio—absolutely. But the tour de force role belongs to John Rapson, who plays the entire Dysquith family, and he’s brilliant. His quick costume changes alone would be impressive, but he’s got at least as many singing voices, gestures and nuanced tic’s, too. (And who knew there were this many versions of an upper crust British accent?)

These are backed by a cadre of legit singers that would be any musical’s dream team. The ensemble numbers were thick and luscious; “Lady Hyacinth Abroad,” in particular, was breathtaking in all its glorious frenzy. Rapson was hilarious as Monty’s ancient and nearly indestructable aunt.

This is a musical theater lover’s happy place. If that’s you, act fast. It runs only through Jan. 10, with two performances on that Sunday. The Hennepin Theatre Trust brought this Broadway touring production to town. The book is by Robert L. Freedman, music by Steven Lutvak and the pair co-wrote the lyrics. Directed by Darko Tresnjak with choreography by Peggy Hickey.


1 comment for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder at the State Theatre

  1. Steven LaVigne
    January 9, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    I have indeed been waiting for this and saw it this afternoon. Except for the young man in front of me who was more interested in his cell phone than the show (an usher set him right for the second act), the show moved brilliantly and was thoroughly entertaining. I expect we’ll see it again the the Twin Cities!

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