By Daniel Skora
The Fisher Theatre is currently presenting “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”, the Broadway musical that won four Tony Awards in 2014, including the award for Best Musical. The story covers the fortunes and misfortunes of Monty Navarro, (Kevin Massey), an impoverished Brit in 1909 London who’s in love with the beautiful but lightheaded Sibella Hallward (Kristen Beth Williams). Because of his poor financial situation, his marriage proposals to Sibella go unanswered.
Good news arrives, however, when Monty discovers that not only is he’s related to the aristocratic D’Ysquith family, but he’s ninth in line to inherit the family fortune. Monty contacts the current head of the family, Lord Asquith D’Ysquith Sr. (John Rapson), asking for a job in the family business. Rejected at first by the Lord’s son, he becomes acquainted with others in the family and discovers quite by accident how easy it is to do in one of those D’Ysquiths. When he is finally given a job in the family business, he begins murdering his way through each and every one of the D’Ysquiths ahead of him in the line of succession.
He kills them in the oddest and most amusing ways until finally only one remains. All the while this has been going on, he’s being romanced by the equally beautiful Phoebe D’Ysquith (Kristen Hahn). The remaining heir is eventually murdered, but complications arise when the police arrest Monty for the murder, who, ironically, is not directly responsible for his death. It’s left to the two lovely damsels in his life, Sibella and Phoebe, to try and save Monty from the hangman’s noose.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is not your usual Broadway musical. Music and plot rule and choreography is kept to a minimum. This first national touring company features a spectacular performance by John Rapson, who plays all eight members of the D’Ysquith family. He is absolutely brilliant playing D’Ysquiths of every age and gender. More than likely, there’s another great show going on backstage as interesting as the one being presented out front as Rapson goes through multiple quick changes of costume.
The show features a colorful set by designer Alexander Dodge that’s reminiscent of an old vaudeville stage. Unique special effects are achieved through projected images, (projections by Aaron Rhyne), the most delightful being a swarm of bees chasing one of the D’Squiths back and forth in his garden. The show’s best production number, done to a song called “I’ve Decided to Marry You”, has Monty caught between rooms trying to keep his two lady friends separated from each other.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and murder” is based on a novel by Roy Horniman. Book is by Robert L. Freedman, music is by Steven Lutvak, and both share credit for the lyrics. The show is directed by Darko Tresnjak. Costume design is by Linda Cho and the orchestra is directed by Lawrence Goldberg. The show runs through October 16th. Tickets are on sale at the Fisher Theatre box office in the Fisher Building, by phone at 1.313.871.2787, and online at www.BroadwayinDetroit.com or www.TicketMaster.com. The Fisher Theatre is located at 3011 West Grand Blvd. in Detroit.