×

Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Style is of the essence in the deliciously dark, elegant and playful musical comedy about a distant heir who facilitates the demise of eight icky kin who stand in his way to a Downton Abbey-sized fortune.

With:
The D'Ysquith Family -- Jefferson Mays
Montague D'Ysquith Navarro -- Ken Barnett
Sibella Hallward -- Lisa O'Hare
Phoebe D'Ysquith -- Chilina Kennedy
Barber/Detective -- Price Waldman
Miss Barley/Lady Eugenia -- Heather Ayers
Miss Shingle/Tour Guide -- Rachel Izen
Tom Copley/Warden -- Kendal Sparks

Style is of the essence in the deliciously dark, elegant and playful musical comedy about a distant heir who facilitates the demise of eight icky kin who stand in his way to a Downton Abbey-sized fortune. World preem at Hartford Stage gets a rich, clever production as Darko Tresnjak directs top-drawer turns by Ken Barnett and Jefferson Mays. Gorgeous, funny and melodious tuner about revenge, greed and hidden desires has bright prospects for future life — the Gotham return of “Drood” notwithstanding — and is sure to attract wish-fulfillment auds who like their fantasies executed in the very best of taste.

By Frank Rizzo

Based on the same 1907 source material that inspired the 1949 Brit film comedy “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” Barnett (“February House”) plays the upwardly mobile outsider-heir while Mays (“I Am My Own Wife”) portrays the eight members of the despicable, imperious and idiotic D’Ysquith clan. Here the fun is in the final exits, whether it’s a fall from grace, killer bees, thin ice or an actor’s improper prop. (What critic hasn’t imagined real bullets in Hedda’s gun?)

Popular on Variety

It’s all presented in the safety and comfort of exquisite artifice, with Alexander Dodge’s lush pop-up greeting card design setting the look and an impeccable ensemble striking the right comic balance between style and substance.

Mays delights in every comic creation, killing (in his own way) in numbers “I Don’t Understand the Poor” (sounding particularly relevant this election cycle), the double entendre-laden “Better With a Man” and, in drag, a virtuosic “Around the World With Lady Hyacinth.”

But this is Monty’s story, and Barnett is always in command of the center: sympathetic, charming and just wicked enough, never losing the aud’s interest or affection. That he sings like a dream also helps, and his solo “Sibella” is a haunting standout. So are Lisa O’Hare and Chilina Kennedy as Monty’s two very different paramours, with lovely and amusing songs of their own. (O’Hare’s duet with Barnett, “Inside Out,” is the take-away tune.)

Show loses some of its footing late in the second act, and recitative is stretched to its snapping point several times. But there’s plenty to impress in the well-crafted, witty and sometimes stunning score by Steven Lutvak and Robert L. Freedman, greatly assisted by music director Paul Staroba, orchestrator Jonathan Tunick and the six-piece pit.

Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Hartford Stage, 493 seats; $83.50 top

Production: A Hartford Stage presentation of a musical in two acts, with book by Robert L. Freedman, music by Steven Lutvak and lyrics by Freedman and Lutvak. Directed by Darko Tresnjak. Choreography, Peggy Hickey.

Creative: Sets, Alexander Dodge; costumes, Linda Cho; lighting, Philip Rosenberg, sound, Dan Moses Schreier; projections, Aaron Rhyne; orchestrations, Jonathan Tunick; music director/conductor, Paul Staroba; vocal arrangements, Dianne Adams McDowell and Lutvak, stage manager, Susie Cordon; production manager, Bryan T. Holcombe. Opened, reviewed Oct. 17, 2012. Runs through Nov. 11. Running time: 2 HOURS, 25 MIN.

Cast: The D'Ysquith Family -- Jefferson Mays
Montague D'Ysquith Navarro -- Ken Barnett
Sibella Hallward -- Lisa O'Hare
Phoebe D'Ysquith -- Chilina Kennedy
Barber/Detective -- Price Waldman
Miss Barley/Lady Eugenia -- Heather Ayers
Miss Shingle/Tour Guide -- Rachel Izen
Tom Copley/Warden -- Kendal SparksSongs: A Warning to the Audience, You're a D'ysquith, I Don't Know What I'd Do, Foolish to Think, A Warning to Monty, I Don't Understand the Poor, Poison in My Pocket, Poor Monty, Better with a Man, Inside Out, Around the World with Lady Hyacinth, The Last One You'd Expect, Why Are All the D'ysquiths Dying?, Sibella, I've Decided to Marry You, Final Warning, Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun, Stop! Wait! What?!, That Horrible Woman.

More Legit

  • Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant,

    Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant, Dies at 73

    Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73. Smith died on Jan. 1. The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He [...]

  • Frozen review musical

    Warmth and Humor Pervade Pantages Production of 'Frozen' the Musical

    In 2013, Disney’s “Frozen” hit screens like a 100 mile-per-hour snowball, sparking a pop cultural phenomenon in which little girls and boys pranced about dressed in Anna and Elsa and Olaf costumes while belting aloud “Let It Go,” Elsa’s feminist anthemic response to ice powers rendering her a societal outcast. The animated movie won two [...]

  • My Name Is Lucy Barton review

    'My Name is Lucy Barton': Theater Review

    Laura Linney is in love. Just watch the radiant expression on her face as she wraps her arms around the character of Lucy Barton, a role she played in two separate engagements at the Bridge Theater in London, and is now reprising on Broadway in “My Name is Lucy Barton.” The feeling is obviously mutual, [...]

  • 'Broadway Profiles with Tamsen Fadal' to

    'Broadway Profiles with Tamsen Fadal' to Air Weekly, Syndicate Nationally (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Broadway Profiles with Tamsen Fadal” will become nationally syndicated, marking a first for a program about the Great White Way. Beginning in fall 2020, the monthly show will increase frequency to air weekly. The show is hosted and executive-produced by 12-time Emmy Award winner Tamsen Fadal, a news anchor at WPIX, the channel that initially [...]

  • Laura Linney My Name Is Lucy

    Listen: What Laura Linney Learns From Bad Shows

    For Laura Linney, every stage experience is a learning experience. “Even the bad ones!” she cheerfully declared on the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “Even the ones that are really bad, and I’ve been really bad in some things,” continued the Emmy winner, currently back on Broadway [...]

  • 'Betrayal' Star Zawe Ashton Signs With

    'Betrayal' Star Zawe Ashton Signs With CAA (EXCLUSIVE)

    Zawe Ashton has signed with CAA, Variety has learned. Most recently seen on Broadway in the hit revival of Harold Pinter’s “Betryal,” Ashton is the definition of a multi-hyphenate. In addition to being an in-demand actress, Ashton is a director, playwright and author. While earning critical raves for “Betrayal,” Ashton made her debut as a [...]

  • Michael Feinstein Kristin Chenoweth Sutton Foster

    Jerry Herman Memorial Set for Feb. 3 at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

    A memorial service for Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman will be held at 3 p.m. on Feb. 3 at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Michael Feinstein is producing the tribute, which will feature performances from a number of notable legit stars, including Kristin Chenoweth, Harvey Fierstein, Sutton Foster, Kelli O’Hara, Bernadette Peters and Betty Buckley. Angela [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content