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A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder – Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
January 15, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times

Having enjoyed this four-time Tony Award-winning musical on Broadway last month, I can firmly attest it has found a national touring company cast to do it justice.  Author and lyricist, Robert L. Freedman, and composer and lyricist, Steven Lutvak, can rest assured that not a beat, a line, a dance step, a joke or note will fail to delight.

Here’s what to expect when you go, and you must, to be all the more prepared to sop it up.  On your list of expectations should be dreamy love songs, a sinister Edward Gorey-like ambiance, delicious gallows humor, Fred Astaire-inspired dancing and droll Edwardian characters.  Be assured there will be murder most foul and romance most delectably forbidden.  All the elements of a ripping good show.

 (L-R) Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D'Ysquith - Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

(L-R) Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D’Ysquith – Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

In A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder we find handsome bachelor, Montague Navarro (Kevin Massey), penniless and orphaned, bereft of employment prospects and in love with Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams), a strikingly gorgeous fortune hunter, who, though smitten with Monty, has her sights set on a wealthy scion.

 (L-R) Lesley McKinnell as Miss Barley, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and John Rapson as Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr. - Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

(L-R) Lesley McKinnell as Miss Barley, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and John Rapson as Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr. – Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Still mourning the loss of his mother Monty is visited in his shabby garret by Miss Shingle (Mary VanArsdel) a spinster who knew her well.  The old lady tells Monty that his mother was disinherited by her family, the D’Ysquiths, for marrying beneath her station and that he is eighth in line for the title of Earl of D’Ysquith replete with the vast estates of Highhurst Castle.  Devising a plan to jump the line of succession by whatever means necessary, our charming hero uses his wits, and some intricate plotting, to knock off the eccentric lords and ladies that precede him.  “What can I take from the D’Ysquiths except their lives,” he merrily posits.

Commencing his fact-finding journey by touring Highhurst on Visitor’s Day, he runs into Lord Adelbert who, in full hunting regalia trills a snooty tune entitled, “I Don’t Understand the Poor”.  Twenty-two numbers accompany Monty’s murderous plots while you find yourself cheering on his diabolical schemes.
John Rapson as Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith - Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

John Rapson as Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith – Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

John Rapson, plays all eight D’Ysquith cousins, both male and female roles, ranging from the sputtering, apoplectic Lord Reverend and Lady Hyacinth, who has a monopoly on the downtrodden, to the gay athlete, Henry, who he humors in “Better with a Man”.  As Monty continues to ingratiate himself with the others, he meets and falls in love with his cousin Phoebe (Adrienne Eller), the embodiment of the perfect Victorian lady.

 (L-R) Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro, Matt Leisy, and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe - Photo credit: Joan Marcus

(L-R) Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro, Matt Leisy, and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe – Photo credit: Joan Marcus

That lepers in the punjab and cannibals in deepest, darkest Africa figure into the plot is all part of the fun, though the Gothic chorus reminds us that, “suddenly they’re congregating under the sod”.

Amid all the lethal high jinks and criss-cross romance are the fabulous voices of the cast, Music Director Lawrence Goldberg’s 12-piece orchestra and Linda Cho’s turn-of-the-century costumes.

Highly recommended.

Through January 30th at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit The Kennedy Center.

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