Gentleman Is Jolly Good Fun

A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder is a clever comic confection with wonderful songs and excellent performances.

Kevin Massey is tremendously appealing as Monty Navarro, a man who kills his relatives to gain the title of Earl of Highhurst. Monty’s recently departed mother was a member of the wealthy D’Ysquith family, according to Miss Shingle (Jennifer Smith), who inspires Monty to become an earl by eliminating the living D’Ysquiths. Meanwhile, Monty’s somewhat shallow fiancee Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams) has fallen for a wealthy man. Life becomes even more complicated when Monty falls for Phoebe (Kristen Hahn) and is questioned by Chief Inspector Pinckney (Ben Roseberry). What’s remarkable is we always maintain sympathy for Monty, even as he commits some really vile acts.

John Rapson brilliantly plays all eight D’Ysquiths, who meet their ends in a variety of colorful ways. These are some seriously weird people. There is the stuffy Lord Adalbert, who has disdain for the lower classes — “I Don’t Understand the Poor.” Then there is the Reverend Lord Ezekial, a daffy soul who delights in showing Monty his church steeple. Some of the show’s funniest moments involve Lady Hyacinth’s near-death experiences in India, Africa, and the jungle. And there is the stuffy Major Lord Bartholomew and his unpleasant wife Lady Salome; their contempt for each other is sidesplittingly hilarious.

“I’ve Decided to Marry You” is sung by Monty as he desperately attempts to keep the two women in his life from discovering each other. There is some wonderfully executed choreography involving Monty caught between two doorways. The scene is a comic masterpiece.

The show takes place on a mini-stage and the set designs, including a frozen lake, a lush flower garden, and a stately mansion, are all impressive.

Director Darko Tresnjak’s pacing is sharp and he has filled the show with lots of amusing sight gags.

A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder is macabre, as well as sweet, charming and very entertaining.

A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder runs through December 11. Providence Performing Arts Center. For tickets, or call 401-421-ARTS.

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