Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 27, 2016

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through October 30, 2016
by Shera Cohen

“The musical’s first song, ‘A Warning to the Audience’ [to go home] is, of course, not heeded. No one should leave the theatre until our young, handsome, serial killer/hero and his eight victims receive standing ovations.”

Photo by Joan Marcus
I quote the last line of my own review of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” having seen it in 2012 as a world premiere at Hartford Stage. Within what seemed like a New York second, “Gentleman” landed on Broadway, won a ton of Tony Awards, to then come full circle to Hartford – this time to the larger Bushnell stage. The saying goes, “You can go home again,” and in the life of “Gentleman,” welcomed by a full house, rousing cheers, bold laughter, and yes, a standing ovation. Frankly, I easily could have spent another two hours watching the erstwhile protagonist knock off another eight preys, but I doubt if the cast members had the stamina to keep up the physical and verbal speed.

The plot: Rent the 1949 Alec Guinness splendid macabre comedy, “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” add romantic and devilish music, 20 or so elaborate cartoonish scenes, and four leading actors/singers. Without movie CliffNotes, think: poor, orphaned (okay, so he’s 25ish) low class Monty discovers that he has a slew of upper class relatives, each of whom he must murder in order to climb the ladder to success. While nice-guy Monty is at first reluctant to pursue his mission, he quickly gets over it. What singles out this farce from other musicals and plays is that the role of all eight family members (men, women, young, old) is portrayed by the same actor.

Kevin Massey (Monty) acts as well as he can sing. It is obvious why he has earned his Broadway credits. His bittersweet “Sibella” is offset by a spritely “Poison in My Pocket.” John Rapson (Monty’s kin; i.e. cousins, uncles, aunts) purposely milks the bizarre humor of each family member to perfection. Just when one would think that Massey is ONLY a funny man, he sings a brassy “Lady Lyacinth Abroad” or dramatic “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun.” Best of all is the duet, “Better With a Man,” which without going into details, is exactly what you would guess.

If a competition was held as to which of the two actresses has the best soprano pipes it would be a tie. Both Kristen Beth Williams and Kristen Hahn could easily be mistaken for opera divas. Indeed, Williams plays her role as diva-like as is possible. Hahn’s character, on the other hand, is proper and demure. Monty loves them both. So does the audience. Perhaps the show-stopper is the trio’s (Monty and ladies) “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” with each woman on the opposite side of a wall, Monty between them, with doors slamming, running about, and gymnastics to give Moliere a smile.

Director Darko Tresnjak and Scenic Designer Alexander Dodge work in sync flawlessly. This half-paragraph does not property credit their skills. Music Director Lawrence Goldberg and his talented orchestra carry refrains of hysterically yet ghoulish sounds throughout.

A flaw with “Gentleman”? There has to be something? Ah, the musical runs less than a week at The Bushnell.