Killer Of A Comedy

Broadway In Orlando Presents A Farcical Romp With A Murderous Premise.

Killer Of A Comedy

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder..John Rapson.Kristen Hall.Kevin Massey.Kristen Beth Williams.Dani Marcus..

Image credit: 2016 Joan Marcus

From artsLife Magazine, an interview with the leads of 'A Gentlemen’s Guide' the next show (after the season ad-on of 'Wicked', of course) in the Fairwinds Broadway in Orlando season.

Meet Monty Navarro, an entitled but endearing twit who stands to inherit a fortune — only if eight distant relatives, who are inconveniently still living, first meet their demise. What to do?

Penniless Monty’s quest to eliminate the D’Ysquith family members is what drives A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, a farcical frolic in which audiences cheer for a serial killer. If that sounds odd, then wait until you meet the pompous and peculiar D’Ysquiths. You’ll be cheering, too.

A Gentleman’s Guide, which won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical, is next up in the FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando™ series at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. It brings its mirthful mayhem to the Walt Disney Theater February 7-12, 2017.

Presented in collaboration with Broadway Across America and the Florida Theatrical Association, the remaining regular season includes Disney’s The Little Mermaid (March 7-12, 2017), Matilda — The Musical (May 9-14, 2017); and Finding Neverland (June 6-11, 2017). Wicked, the blockbuster season option, runs January 11-29, 2017.

A Gentleman’s Guide is winning rave reviews across the country, at least in part because Americans have an enduring love for British-infused humor, which can veer from sophisticated to slapstick in the same scene. Monty Python, anyone?

And yet, the show was written by two Americans: Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics). It is, however, based on a 1907 novel by a British writer: Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal, by Roy Horniman. And there's the British film version: 1949’s Kind Hearts and Coronets, starring the legendary Alec Guinness.

The two lead actors in the touring production are having a giddy good time with A Gentleman’s Guide, about which The New York Times wrote, “Bloodlust hasn’t been sung so sweetly, or provided so much theatrical fun, since Sweeney Todd first wielded his razor with such gusto many a long year ago.”

But there’s nothing in the show to disturb the squeamish. “Monty doesn’t so much kill the D’Ysquiths (which, of course, sounds like DIES-quick) as helps them along,” says Kevin Massey, a veteran actor who understudied for the role of Monty on Broadway. “All the D’Ysquiths are odious. If they weren’t, how could we like Monty?”

Massey says that wherever A Gentleman’s Guide has played, “people tell us that it was one of, if not the, best show they’ve seen all season.” In fact, he says, some theatergoers are seeing it more than once. The pace is so frenetic, he adds, that it’s easy to find something new upon repeated viewings.

Although A Gentleman’s Guide may provide the most fun Massey has ever had on stage, it likely won’t dislodge Little House on the Prairie as the most personally significant play he’s ever done. In that show he met his wife-to-be, Kara Lindsay, who played Laura.

John Rapson plays the entire D’Ysquith family — regardless of gender — and rarely, if ever, has such a cast of comically contemptible characters been assembled on one stage, much less in one person.

“The D’Ysquiths are terrible,” says Rapson, who first saw A Gentleman’s Guide while performing in the Broadway production of Les Misérables. Then, in the next two weeks, he went back to see it two more times. “I became a huge fan of it all — it’s intensely smart and awesome, but even if you like slapstick, there’s something there for you.”

Rapson, who figures he’s died onstage about 2,700 times, says playing eight characters is physically demanding, with so many rapid-fire costume changes, some of which must be completed in less than a minute. “But it also calls upon every tool I have in my comedy tool belt,” he adds. “From Buster Keaton to Peter Sellers to Bart Simpson.”

He portrays, among others, the dotty Rev. Lord D’Ezekial, the formidable Lady Hyacinth, the grumbling Lord Adalbert and the enthusiastic Henry, a beekeeper who falls for Monty, leading to one of the show’s funniest musical numbers, “Better With a Man.”

It all makes sense in the context of the play. Monty, a dashing cad, knows nothing of his relationship to the highborn D’Ysquiths. Then he discovers that his recently deceased mother, who married beneath her station, was a banished family member.

A friend informs him that eight relatives, none of whom he has ever met, stand in the way of him and what he perceives as his proper place in society — as the ninth Earl of Highhurst. What follows is a series of, shall we say, unfortunate accidents, romantic intrigue and boisterous songs reminiscent of 19th-century English music halls — as well as a memorable night of theater.