A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Downton Abbey Lite

Those who are enamoured with the popular TV show Downton Abbey, longing for the days of the British aristocracy, are not likely to enjoy A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.  Unless, they have a good sense of humour, and in that case they will love it.

This witty musical, a tongue-in-cheek look at life in the upper class from the eyes of an upper class wannabe, is currently on stage at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.  It’s a Broadway tour, bringing its own cast from the US to Canada.

Immediately after his mother’s funeral, Monty Navarro learns that she was the daughter of wealthy aristocratic parents, shunned because she married a poor Castilian.  Monty learns that he is the heir to a fortune, but unfortunately, eight others are ahead of him in line.  When his girlfriend marries another fellow because he’s rich, Monty decides that he needs to eliminate those eight people who are standing in his way.   Gentlemans Guide

Like Downton Abby, it’s set in the early 1900s, where nobility is all-important.  So we watch as Monty begins to do away with all the other heirs.  Some require murder, others are good enough to drop dead of their own accord, and others die accidentally before Monty has the chance to do the dastardly deed.

It’s a very funny tale brought to us mainly by two comedic actors.  Kevin Massey is entertaining as the unassuming Monty.  He plays the character as a perfectly charming young man; no one could ever imagine that he is a scheming murderer. And to be honest, he commits his crimes so politely that it’s hilarious.

And then there is John Rapson, and this is what makes this musical so interesting.  Rapson plays the eight heirs that are systematically killed off for the duration of the show.  Rapson is Asquith D’Ysquith Jr., Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith, Reverend Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith, Lord Asquith D’Ysquith Sr., Henry D’Ysquith, Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith, Major Lord Bartholomew D’Ysquith, and Lady Salomé D’Ysquith Pumphrey.  And yes, if you read through that list you will realize that there are two female heirs he plays, along with six men.  His different characterizations and the very fast costume changes create great entertainment.  He plays one more character, but I can’t reveal who, as that might spoil the ending.  Monty’s two girlfriends are presented delightfully by Kristen Beth Williams and Adrienne Eller.  In addition, the ensemble is excellent, covering many different roles.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder is a well-written comedy with clever songs and catchy tunes.  The show took four Tony Awards, including best musical, in 2014.  It’s well worth the trip to Toronto to catch this Broadway tour while it makes its Canadian stop.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder continues with eight shows a week at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto until June 26.  Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.

Photo: Phoebe (Adrienne Eller) and Monty (Kevin Massey) in a Gentleman’s Guide.  Photo by Joan Marcus.  

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Based on a novel by Roy Horniman
Book & Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman
Music & Lyrics by Steven Lutvak
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Choreographed by Peggy Hickey
Musical Direction by Lawrence Goldberg
Performed by John Rapson and Kevin Massey
Produced by David Mirvish
Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto
May 25 to June 26, 2016
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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