Review: ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ at the Golden Gate Theatre (****)

by Charles Kruger
Rating: ****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and the show-stopping Mary VanArsdel as Miss Shingle in "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."
Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and the show-stopping Mary VanArsdel as Miss Shingle in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is nothing more or less than a near perfect entertainment. It is not touching, or inspiring, or thought provoking, or challenging, or profound.

It does nothing but amuse and enchant. As presented by a cast of expert performers, this is more than enough to warrant its excellent reputation.

Let me start by assuring the reader that this touring company is uncompromising. I did not see the Broadway original, but there is nothing here to suggest that the touring company wouldn’t equally deserve the Tony Awards. They are wonderful.

Alexander Dodge’s magical, delicious design of a Victorian theatre within the larger proscenium sets things off on exactly the right note, as does the charming ensemble rendition of the opening song, “A Warning To The Audience.” This is followed by the evening’s first show stopper , “You’re A D’Ysquith,” performed with comic abandon by the wonderful Mary VanArsdel in the role of Miss Shingle. VanArsdel’s opening salvo is a tough act to follow, but the rest of the cast are more than up to it.

The cast has no weak links, but one must mention that Kevin Massey inhabits the character of the likable and ambitious sociopath Monty Navarro with charming grace. As his two love interests, Kristen Beth Williams and Adrienne Eller are everything you would want from Broadway belters. They deliver on the sex appeal and the brass.

An important key to the show’s success, of course is the multiple-character performance of the versatile John Rapson, as no fewer than eight, mostly despicable D’Ysquith’s, each of whom you will love to hate while laughing uproariously at their cleverly staged murders. Jefferson Mays received a Tony Nomination for Best Actor in a Musical for his take on the D’Ysquith family, but it is difficult to imagine that he could have been more delightful than Mr. Rapson. Rapson has a ton of fun with these parts (especially Lady Salomé) and there is nothing disappointing in his tour de force performance.

The score is a musical delight, well managed by an orchesetra led by Lawrence Goldberg.

Broadway watchers who have been awaiting this tour with enthusiasm will be pleased as punch.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” plays at the Golden Gate Theatre through December 27. For further information click here.

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“A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder,” produced by SHN in association with The Hartford Stage and The Old Globe. Book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman. Music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak. Based on a novel by Roy Horniman. Director: Darko Tresnjak. Choreographer: Peggy Hickey. Scenic Design: Alexander Dodge. Costume Design: Linda Cho. Lighting Design: Philip S. Rosenberg. Sound Design: Dan Moses Schreier. Projection Design Aaron Rhyne. Hair & Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe. Makeup Design: Brian Strum Wasser.

Cast:

Monty Navarro: Kevin Massey. Miss Shingle: Mary VanArsdel. Sibella Hallward: Kristen Beth Williams. Tour Guide: Megan Loomis. Miss Barley: Lesley McKinnell. Tom Copley: Matt Leisy. Newsboys: Matt Leisy, Ben Roseberry, Megan Loomis, Kristen Mengelkoch. Actors: Ben Rosenberry, Matt Leisy, Christopher Behmke. Lady Eugenia: Kristen Mengelkoch. Mr. Gorby: Christopher Behmke. Chief Inspector Pinckney: Ben Roseberry. Guard: Matt Leisy. Magistrate: Christopher Behmke. Ensemble: Christopher Behmke, Matt Leisy, Megan Loomis, Lesley McKinnell, Kristen Mengelkoch, Ben Roseberry

Anthony D’Ysquith, Jr./Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith/Lord Asquith D’Ysquith, Sr./Henry D’Ysquith/Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith/Major Lord Bartholomew D’Ysquith/Lady Salomé D’Ysquith/Chaunsey: John Rapson.

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