(Production photos – Joan Marcus -Click to Enlarge)
By: Sandi Durell
“Why Are All the D’Ysquith’s Dying”? It’s simple – because Monty Navarro (a deliciously devilish Bryce Pinkham), upon learning of his heritage, takes matters in hand to get to the head of the clan and snag, not only a wife of note (many high notes at that) his second cousin Phoebe D’Ysquith (Lauren Worsham) while he continues an illicit relationship with the sensual narcissistic Sibella (artistocratic looking Lisa O’Hare) as he ascends to the position of Earl of Highhurst, body by body.
This musical comedy, based upon the 1949 dark and humorous film “Kind Hearts and Coronets” starring Alec Guinness, which was based upon Roy Horniman’s Edwardian novel of 1907, is written by the talented team of Robert L. Freedman (book, lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music, lyrics), Broadway newcomers. It finds a scheming Monty knocking off all his eight relatives in line for the title before him, one by one – the idea (and more) sparked by a sweet little old gal, Miss Shingle (a twinkling Jane Carr), a friend of his dead Mum.
And so we see a series of D’Ysquiths meet their maker (accidents, poison, stung) including a Reverend, who sorely needs a dentist, Lord Adalbert who has a problem when it comes to class – “I Don’t Understand the Poor,” a bicycling gay country cousin Henry in a very telling duet with Monty “It’s Better With A Man,” a beekeeper, buxom Lady Hyacinth who travels the world to help the poor but, alas, gets lost in darkest Africa in “Lady Hyacinth Abroad,” a showgirl Lady Salome – – – and they, and more, are all played by Tony Award Winner Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) who must have at least six dressers backstage as he miraculously morphs from D’Ysquith to D’ysquith, singing and dancing, playing the multiple characters in one of the zaniest performances imaginable, nary breaking a sweat!
The production is brimming over with clever lyrics, dry humor and tacky slapstick antics reminiscent of a combination of a little bit Gilbert & Sullivan, some Noel Coward thrown in for good measure, and the best of the Marx Brothers as foxes and feathers fly, and a hilarious door slamming tryst, in the second act, finds the now married Sibella undressed in Monty’s apartment as Phoebe enthusiastically bursts in with the delectable “I’ve Decided to Marry You.”
And the Edwardian costumes by Linda Cho – in one word – gorgeous! Director Darko Tresnjak moves the actors through their paces with the fine hand of an artist creating a masterpiece albeit this being his musical Broadway debut. Peggy Hickey choreographs with flair and style.
Kudos to the rest of the talented ensemble who play multiple roles (Pamela Bob, Joanna Glushak, Eddie Korbich, Jeff Kready, Mark Ledbetter, Jennifer Smith, Price Waldman and Catherine Walker) each of them more than noteworthy.
Pinkham, with his droll and innocent presence and strong tenor, plays it to the hilt in every scene. O’Hare and Worsham each resonate in their beautiful sopranos – each glorious to behold.
Alexander Dodge has created the whimsical set design of a stage within a stage, aided and accompanied by Philip S. Rosenberg’s deftly designed lighting and Aaron Rhyne’s fun projections.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” is just what the doctor ordered– a good old fashioned musical comedy with memorable songs and lots of laughs. It is ensconced at the Walter Kerr Theatre on West 48th Street and is sure to be one of this season’s top Award winners.
*Red Carpet Photos Post Show – Magda Katz