Posted in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Bryce Pinkham, Jefferson Mays, Kind Hearts and Coronets, lyrics and book by Robert L. Freedman, music and lyrics by Ste ven Lutvak

Murder Most Delightfully Abominable

What would you do if you discovered that you were an heir to a distinguished family? One that had denied your existence and birthright and driven you and your mother into poverty?

The answer in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” at the Walter Kerr Theatre in an open run,  is to have our disinherited hero kill his way to the top.

Jane Carr as Miss Shingle and Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro in a scene from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Walter Kerr Theater. “You’re a D’Ysquith,” Miss Shingle informs Monty. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

In a world in which motives for murder are so often random, it’s refreshing to see how carefully planned Monty Navarro’s (Bryce Pinkham) ascension is. All the mayhem he bestows is sweetly done, but Monty finds he has a knack for it. Here’s a young man who finds purpose and a new skill.

Joanna Glushak as Lady Eugenia, Lauren Worsham as Phoebe D’Ysquith, Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro, Lisa O’Hare as Sibella Hallward, and Jefferson Mays as Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith, “Looking down the barrel of a gun” from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Walter Kerr Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

“A Gentleman’s Guide..” has a book (and lyrics) by Robert L. Freedman, based like the Alec Guiness film,“Kind Hearts and Coronets” on Roy Horniman’s Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal. The music, and additional lyrics, by Steven Lutvak, that accompanies all this silliness is superbly light and airy. The lyrics  match the froth of the score inserting clever plot points  to move the story along.

The relatives Monty is despatching, improvising as he goes, (all played by Jefferson Mays) are a varied lot of upper crust fops, toffs, fools, and snobs.

Jefferson Mays as Henry D’Ysquith, Jennifer Smith, and Bryce Pinkham
as Monty Navarro in a scene from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
 at the Walter Kerr Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Bryce Pinkham is an amiably baby-faced murderer. He sticks to the spirit of the script executing his killing spree with a wink and an air of surprise. Jefferson Mays, in turn, is all bluster as one high-toned relative, gently ridiculous as another, always clearily enjoying himself. The cast led by Pinkham and Mays are as bright as a new penny.

There are three other stand-outs in this fine ensemble. Lisa O’Hare as Monty’s love-interest  Sibella Hallward is fetchingly coquettish, while Lauren Worsham as Monty’s cousin Phoebe D’Ysquith is beautifully eccentric. Both women have wonderful voices, and excellent comic delivery. The third is Joanna Glushak who grandly steps out of the chorus as Lady Eugenia, Adalbert D’Ysquith’s dyspeptic spouse.

Lisa O’Hare as Sibella Hallward and Bryce Pinkham as Monty
Navarro in a scene from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
at the Walter Kerr  Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Deftly directed by Darko Tresnjak, the British import is as pleasanly insubstantial. The sets, by Alexander Dodge, feature a puppet stage inset on which mostly the indoor scenes are played; like the book, music and lyrics, the set is cleverly done and there are effects that amuse. Despite all the wit and talent in “A Gentleman’s Guide..,” the play is a trifle, a fluffy, flimsy and enjoyable romp.

Do you ever wonder whywe find murder, while we decry the crime, such satisfying entertainment. In “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” it is the pleasure of watching the underdog get even and get away with it. “A Gentleman’s Guide…” is pure escapism, a beach read for a winter’s eve.

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