Guide to Love and Murder” is so delightful, I implore you to get to the
Hartford Stage as quickly as possible.
This charming musical of revenge and mayhem plays only through November
11. For all information about tickets
and times you must call 860-527 5151 or visit hartfordstage.org. Set in the Edwardian Period, the story is so
very much like the wonderful film, “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” which was based
on the 1907 novel, “Israel Rank,” that I am surprised it is not acknowledged in
the playbill. It should be!
Directed and staged cleverly by Darko Tresnjak and
Choreographed by Peggy Hickey, this delicious romp stars the incomparable
Jefferson Mays, who, in a tour de force turn, dashes in an out of wigs, mustaches,
coats, hats and saris playing all nine D'Ysquiths, wealthy Lords, Earls and
their Ladies. This seems to be his forte; Mays won a Tony for his stint playing
30 roles in “I Am My Own Wife.”
We learn about this infamous family from Monty Navarro, who
when the show opens is in prison busy writing his memoirs and awaiting the
verdict of his guilt or innocence. Ken
Barnett is handsome, and projects the right dollops of sex appeal and naiveté
as this young man who wants to avenge his mother's terrible disinheritance by
her D'Ysquith family. (She married a Castillian musician!) He is also madly in love with Sibella, the
stunning Lisa O'Hare, and he is deterred not a bit when she marries someone
else, for they carry on their affair as if nothing happened.
Another woman fights for his hand as well: Phoebe, the
lovely Chilina Kennedy, who possesses a spectacular soprano voice. While Monty
rises from penury to Earldom, members of the family pop off in very funny scenes: an ice-skating accident, a lethal bee-sting
attack, heart failure, poison, and even an axe are responsible for deaths. The
cast, all dressed in Linda Cho's beautiful costumes, is excellent. Rachel Izzen
is a hoot as Miss Shingle.
Since this is a musical, let us talk about the
creators. With first-rate orchestrations
by Jonathan Tunick, music by Steven Lutvak is melodic and in part pays homage
to Gilbert & Sullivan. The Book by Robert Freedman moves the action along
well; Freedman and Lutvak's Lyrics tell the story, when you can understand
them. Alexander Dodge's multi-faceted
set lit by Phillip Rosenberg is surrounded by a decorative proscenium that is
pushed back which removes the actors and the action from the audience.
However, the singing portraits and other surprises make “A
Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” great fun. Playing through November 11 at Hartford