"GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER" NATIONAL TOUR VISITS SF FOR THE HOLIDAYS AND IT IS BLOODY FUN
Who would have ever think that a guilty pleasure such as murder would be so delightful to watch - and during the holiday season, yet the 2014 Tony Award winner for Best Musical does just that. Now, nationally touring Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder at SHN’s Golden Gate Theatre, explores the hilarious, but miraculous shortcomings of the D’Ysquiths (John Rapson), an aristocratic family lineage, who have done wrong to so many, especially to a young dapper fellow by the name of Montague D’Ysquith Navarro (Kevin Massey). Claiming that his mother Isobel Navarro was a D’Ysquith, Monty deals with the horrible treatment from the stiff blue bloods of Highhurst. They deny his claim of being a D’Ysquith through mockery because Isobel fell in love and eloped with a Castilian musician, rather than marrying someone of prestige. So, Monty takes it upon himself to climb the D’Ysquith earldom of Highhurst, while maintaining his relationship with his mistress Sibella Hallward between his lover Phoebe D’Ysquith, who is also his cousin (but who cares) He needs to make sure that he does not get behind bars.
This adaptation on the 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman is absolutely fun, fantastic, and just bloody good. Robert L. Freedman’s book and lyrics (Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella and Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows) are snappy, witty, and very unconventional to a showboat style musical. Darko Tresnjak's dapper direction and Peggy Hickey's snappy portrait choreography keep the murders hilarious and fast. There is plenty attention given to the songs and dialogue, melding them so well to give a bloody musical story. And, Steven Lutvak’s score delivers a sensuous, but harmonic tone that delivers both grace and scurrility. It’s a mixed bag of blood gulp from the Demon Barber of Fleet Street with the slapstick hoopla of Monty Python, and The 39 steps.
Monty’s messy works of head slicing, freak accidents, and poisoning are just delectable. Each hunting of each D’Ysquith gets more creative than the next. The cheeky stiff upper-lipped citizens of Highhurst get the best of what’s coming to them, and I mean the best. An ice skater somehow falls through ice in a carefully cut perfect circle, a priest falls from a church tower, a beekeeper gets swarmed by bright yellow bee stings, and an atrocious actress blows her head off while playing the title role of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler with bystanders yelling, “She shot herself in the temple!” It is undeniably a travesty to decide which wasting is the best of the show, and watching Montague D’Ysquith Navarro orchestrate them is just gravy. The song “ “Foolish to Think” Massy show is excellent tenor skills, as Rapson perfect comedy take in “Better With a Man”.
As the handsome young lad climbing the aristocratic ladder, Massey delivers a fine performance of gory flare, but with sweet and kindled moments. To the courting of Sibella and the pacifying of Phoebe, to each victory of a D’Ysquith slain, Massey’s portrayal is a hero to be loved for his eight deadly sins. Both, Williams and Eller act as fire and ice to Monty’s killer excursion. As Sibella, Williams brands her as the voluptuous, yet zealous beauty dressed in pink, as stated in “I Don’t Know What I’d Do Without You.” Eller’s Phoebe is well on awkward, quirky, and annoyingly brilliant, making her a nasal voice that is laugh out loud precious. The love trio shines when Monty is at his wit's, frustratingly hiding his affairs with Sibella from Phoebe in the shows stopping “I’ve Decided to Marry You.” Everyone is hilariously battling each other in song, where Sibella is trying to leave, and Phoebe just won’t until she confesses her matrimonial decision, making Monty lose his hair to calm them both. No wonder this moment was a performance at the 2014 Tony Awards. It is just that good!
Finally, the cream of the crop the D’Ysquith herd of Highhurst. Rapson is insanely mind-blowing as the pip-pip-cheerio fashionables. To the fat ladies who sing (yes he sings exactly like a girl soprano), to the top hats draped in black, Rapson is masterful and a showstopper from beginning to end, making each D’Ysquith unique, tasteful, and hard to forget. The two and half hour musical flies by like any like any classic Monty Python crazed comedy.
A Gentleman’s Guide is a powerhouse comedy musical, without having to lean towards glorified dance numbers, and outrageous staging elements. It’s a stage within a stage black box with a projections by Aaron Rhyne in the back with a few set pieces, designed by Alexander Dodge emulating a sophisticated sit-com like setting within the beautiful venue of the Golden Gate Theatre. The elegant costumes all spot on perfect including the fat suits for Rapson, designed by Linda Cho. Music director Lawrence Goldberg conducts a clever score including some show-stopping numbers “Poison In My Pocket”.
The holidays theatre include Scrooge and Nutcracker, but a little blood and gore and some fun “Benny Hill” scamper murder is another festive way to celebrate the season. This is a great evening of a killer comedy that can not be missed. SHN is featuring the new Ap lottery for their winter shows; $25 MOBILE LOTTERY Enter the mobile lottery for all performances of A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER! Just download the ‘TodayTix’ app at the Google Play Store and tap to enter.
SHN Presents The Hartford Stage and The Globe
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder'
ROBESTEVEN LUTVAK (Music/Lyrics)
RT L. FREEDMAN (Book/Lyrics)
THROUGH: Dec. 27
Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., San Francisco
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes; one intermission
Tickets: $45-$212; 888-746-1799, www.shnsf.com
Photos by JOAN MARCUS