A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

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A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.jpg
Broadway Playbill
Music Steven Lutvak
Lyrics Robert L. Freedman
Steven Lutvak
Book Robert L. Freedman
Basis Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman
Productions 2012 Hartford
2013 San Diego
2013 Broadway

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder is a musical comedy, with the book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and the music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak. It is based on the 1907 novel Israel Rank: the Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman.[1] The play opened on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre in 2013. The Broadway production ultimately won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical at the 68th Tony Awards.

The novel was also the source for the 1949 British film Kind Hearts and Coronets; however, apparently for legal reasons, that title was not permitted to be used.[citation needed]

Productions[edit]

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder premiered at the Hartford Stage, Hartford, Connecticut, running in October through November 2012, with direction by Darko Tresnjak. The cast featured Jefferson Mays, Ken Barnett and Lisa O'Hare.[2] The musical is a co-production of the Hartford Stage and the Old Globe Theatre.[3]

The musical then opened at the Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, California in March 2013. Directed by Darko Tresnjak, the cast featured Jefferson Mays, Ken Barnett and Lisa O’Hare.[4][5]

The musical opened on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre on November 17, 2013 after previews from October 22, 2013, with direction by Darko Tresnjak and choreography by Peggy Hickey. The cast stars Jefferson Mays, Lisa O'Hare, Lauren Worsham, and Bryce Pinkham.[6] Jefferson Mays plays eight roles, all of the D’Ysquith family.[7] Its capitalization cost was $7.5 million.[8]

Synopsis[edit]

Act I

A group dressed in mourning enter and advise "those of you of weaker constitution" to leave the theatre, as the events about to unfold may disturb them ("Prologue: A Warning to the Audience"). In 1909, Lord Montague D'Ysquith Navarro, Ninth Earl of Highhurst, is revealed in a prison cell. He writes in a journal, with voiceover narration saying that while few people in life tell the truth about themselves, he has resolved to write his memoirs on the eve of his possible execution, and will relate the story faithfully. He supposes it could be called "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."

In 1907, Monty Navarro, just returned to his shabby Clapham flat from his mother's funeral, receives an unexpected visitor. Miss Marietta Shingle, an older, somewhat dowdy woman, arrives to inform Monty that his mother, a personal friend, whom Monty thought was a common washerwoman, was in fact a member of the aristocratic D'Ysquith family. Instead of marrying for money or property, Isobel D'Ysquith fell in love with a Castilian musician (now also deceased) and eloped. Isobel was cast out and disinherited by the D'Ysquiths. Isobel wished to spare her son the shame she felt, and never told him the truth of his ancestry. Now, by Miss Shingle's accounting, Monty is ninth in line to inherit the Highhurst earldom. She opens Isobel's old jewel box, which contains letters and Monty's birth certificate, proving her story. She insists that he take his rightful place ("You're A D'Ysquith"). Monty thinks it might be possible to insert himself back into the family's good graces. He writes a letter to Lord Asquith D'Ysquith, Sr., the head of the family banking house, explaining his connection to the family and inquiring if there might be a job available for him.

Armed with this new information, Monty goes to meet the woman he is courting, Miss Sibella Hallward. Sibella is in love with Monty, yet she will not marry him due to fear of being impoverished ("I Don't Know What I'd Do"). Sibella has also drawn the attention of another gentleman of higher status, Lionel Holland. She accepts Monty’s story about his lineage, but remarks that eight people would have to die in order for him to become earl - how likely is that?

Monty receives a reply from Lord Asquith's son, Asquith D'Ysquith, Jr., denying Isobel's existence and warning Monty against contacting the family again or using their name. Monty is dejected, but refuses to simply accept his apparent destiny as a poor commoner ("Foolish to Think"). He decides to tour Highhurst Castle, the D'Ysquith's ancestral home, on Visitor's Day. The spirits of the D'Ysquith ancestors admonish him that he does not belong there ("A Warning to Monty"). Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith, the current Earl of Highhurst, appears, and he and the ancestors express their disdain for the commoners flooding his home ("I Don't Understand the Poor").

Monty decides to try his luck with the one parson in the family, Reverend Lord Ezekial D'Ysquith. The reverend remembers Isobel as a charming girl who broke her father's heart. Nevertheless, he refuses to advocate for Monty to the rest of the D'Ysquiths, believing that it is best to avoid family intrigue, and further, that if Isobel’s father disinherited her, it would not be right to deny his wishes. He gives Monty a tour of the family ancestral church. They ascend to the top of the bell tower, where gusting winds and the reverend's inebriation find Ezekial teetering precariously on the edge of the tower. He asks for Monty's hand to regain his balance. Monty realizes how easy it would be in that moment to let the reverend fall, exacting revenge for his mother and bringing him one step closer to the earldom ("Foolish to Think (Reprise)"). Monty blows slightly with his lips, and Reverend Lord Ezekial falls to his death.

Monty returns to his dead-end job as a clerk, unsure of the rightness of his actions, but frustrated that he toils away while unworthy men grow rich, among them Asquith D'Ysquith, Jr. He observes "the young bounder" abscond with a young woman, Miss Barley, a recent Floradora girl, to a winter resort at Chizzlemere. Monty follows them with the intention of poisoning Asquith, Jr. He misses his opportunity when the couple decide to go ice skating on a frozen lake. Instead, Monty cuts a hole in the ice, and Asquith, Jr. and Miss Barley fall through and drown. ("Poison in My Pocket").

Monty returns to London and receives a letter from Lord Asquith D'Ysquith, Sr., the head of the family banking house, and one of his mother’s principal persecutors. Asquith, Sr. apologies for the tone of his son’s letter and invites Monty to the bank to speak about a job. Monty shows Asquith, Sr. a picture of his mother, and Asquith, Sr. recognizes the family resemblance. Lord D'Ysquith is saddened by the death of his son in the skating "accident," and offers to teach Monty stockbroking, a post at the bank, and a comfortable salary. Monty accepts.

Monty visits Sibella again to tell her about his new position and income, but before he can speak, Sibella informs him that she is now engaged to marry Lionel Holland. Upon learning of Monty's new status, she regrets the engagement, but decides to go through with the marriage anyway ("Poor Monty").

Monty now fixes on Henry D'Ysquith, a country squire. He encounters Henry in a town pub and rescues him from an assault by a foreclosed-on tenant. Henry apparently prefers the company of men; Monty picks up on this and befriends him ("Better With a Man"). Monty visits the D'Ysquith country estate in Salisbury with Henry. He learns of Henry's love of beekeeping, as well as the fact that a person can be killed by a surfeit of bee-stings. He is soon invited back as Henry's weekend guest, and meets Henry's sister and his cousin, Miss Phoebe D'Ysquith. As a woman of Monty's generation, she does not stand before him in the line of succession. He has come with an atomizer bottle of English lavender, to which the bees are extraordinarily attracted. He douses Henry's beekeeping garb with the lavendar, and gets to know Phoebe as Henry is stung to death by bees ("Inside Out"). Monty consoles Phoebe, and concludes that if he cannot be with Sibella, she would be the perfect woman to be his countess when he becomes earl.

There are other women who do come before Monty in the lineage, one of whom is Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith, an unmarried woman of a certain age. A dedicated philanthropist, Lady Hyacinth has recently been hoodwinked by the Dull-Witted of Greater London, who have stolen a whole year's worth of donations. She finds herself in need of a new cause. Posing as a member of the Foreign Office, Monty encourages Lady Hyacinth and her entourage to travel first to Egypt (where an uprising against the Empire is imminent), then to India (to a leper colony), in order to dispose of her. She returns unharmed both times, before Monty finally dispatches her the jungles of Africa - and a cannibal tribe. Lady Hyacinth is reported missing and presumed dead ("Lady Hyacinth Abroad").

Monty proves quite good as a stockbroker, and rises in stature at the bank, securing a significant salary increase and praise from Lord Asquith D'Ysquith, Sr. ("The Last One You'd Expect - Part I"). His romance with Sibella continues despite her marriage and it is clear that Sibella is impressed by Monty's determination to succeed ("The Last One You'd Expect - Part III").

Monty's next target is Major Lord Bartholomew D'Ysquith, an army man, staunch eugenicist, vegetarian and body-builder. He encounters Lord Bartholomew at a weight-lifting hall. Monty spots Lord Bartholomew while he attempts to bench press his own weight. He tells Monty that though he may cry out, Monty should not help him. Monty adds more weight, beyond Lord Bartholomew’s ability, and allows the barbell to fall and decapitate the major.

Monty continues to console Phoebe; actions that during her period of mourning for her brother have endeared him to her greatly (“The Last One You'd Expect - Part V").

Lady Salome D'Ysquith Pumphrey is an appallingly bad actress currently appearing in a production of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. Remembering the climax of the play (Hedda's suicide by a pistol shot to the temple), Monty sneaks backstage and replaces the blanks in Hedda's gun with real bullets. Lady Salome shoots herself and dies, to the shock of her fellow actors. The deaths of Reverend Lord Ezekial, Asquith Jr., Henry, Lady Hyacinth, Major Lord Bartholomew, and Lady Salome now leave only the present earl and Lord Asquith, Sr. - Monty's employer and benefactor - in the way. Lord Asquith himself approves of Monty's rise; he notes Monty’s excellent work at the firm, doubles his salary, and declares his intention to appoint Monty as his successor. Monty is temporarily conflicted with the decision to murder Lord Asquith, but is let off the hook when Asquith suddenly succumbs to a heart attack ("The Last One You'd Expect - Part VIII"). All of London is abuzz over the dashing young gentleman who's risen so far, so fast, and now stands next in line to inherit Highhurst ("The Last One You'd Expect - Part IX").


Act II

The curtain rises on Lord Asquith, Sr.’s funeral. Monty delivers a stirring eulogy, but the assembled mourners are irritated at the endless string of D’Ysquith memorials they are compelled to attend (“Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying?”). Lord Adalbert, the current earl, remarks on the ominousness of the situation (“Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying? (Reprise)”).

Monty and Sibella continue their liasions; following an afternoon encounter, Monty sings of his continued love affection for her despite her flaws (“Sibella”). She reveals that while she is unhappy with Lionel, she doesn’t necessarily regret marrying for self-interest, and wouldn’t begrudge Monty for doing the same. However, if he were to marry for love, she would “forbid it.” Sibella asks if Monty could secure Lionel an invitation to Highhurst, as he has political aspirations, but Monty is unable to do so, as he’s never even met the earl himself. Phoebe unexpectedly arrives, and Sibella hides in the next room. Phoebe declares her intention to marry Monty, even if the D’Ysquiths would look down on them. Monty accepts, but is still helplessly in love with Sibella (“I’ve Decided to Marry You”).

It turns out that Lady Hyacinth has survived her encounter with the cannibals, and is about to return triumphantly to London. As she debarks her ship, Monty uses an axe to cut the supports of the gangplank. It collapses, and she drowns in the harbor.

Monty, Phoebe, Sibella and Lionel are all invited to Highhurst for the weekend, so that Lord Adalbert might meet his heir. Monty and Phoebe arrive first, and meet the earl and his countess, Lady Eugenia D’Ysquith. The spirits of the D’Ysquith ancestors again warn Monty against presuming above his station (“Final Warning”). A long-brewing enmity between Lord Adalbert and Lady Eugenia is evident. Lord Adalbert and Monty head off to look at “some of the weapons that killed our ancestors." Sibella arrives without Lionel, who’s been detained in Newmarket. Phoebe and Sibella meet for the first time and share a private moment, where Sibella states that they “may know someone in common.” However, Phoebe and Monty’s engagement is news to Sibella. As they go in to dinner, she insists to Monty that he break it off and declares that she loves him. Although he still loves her, Monty continues with the engagement.

At dinner, a truly awful meal is served and Lord Adalbert and Lady Eugenia bicker constantly. Monty has brought along poison, with the intent of slipping it into Lord Adalbert’s food, but is denied the opportunity to do so unnoticed (“Poison in My Pocket (Reprise)”). Miss Shingle, who initially brought Monty the news of his true lineage, appears; it turns out that she’s been employed as a servant by the D’Ysquiths for 39 years.

Dessert is served, and Lord Adalbert insists, over his wife’s objections, on recounting the tale of his exploits at the Battle of Majuba Hill during the Boer War. Monty gets the chance to slip the poison into Lord Adalbert’s dessert. Sibella refuses dessert, saying that Mr. Holland “complains if she gains even an ounce,” but Lord Adalbert insists, giving her his portion. Monty must intervene, knocking the food to the floor before Sibella can eat it. The increasingly erratic Lord Adalbert’s tale grows in the telling, and he’s soon enacting the psychodrama of being betrayed by his Transvaalian valet during the battle (“Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun”). He gives Monty his loaded army rifle, and demands that he play the part of Jurgen (the valet), ordering Monty to aim the gun at him. Monty, however, cannot bring himself to shoot the earl then and there. At the climax of the number, Lord Adalbert takes a drink and suddenly drops dead.

With Lord Adalbert’s death, Monty is now Lord Montague D’Ysquith Navarro, Ninth Earl of Highhurst. He and Phoebe marry soon after. However, at the wedding reception, he is confronted by Chief Inspector Pinckney of Scotland Yard, who has come to arrest him for the murder of Lord Adalbert, who, it has been discovered, was poisoned. Monty remarks on the absurdity of being charged with the one murder he didn’t actually commit (“Stop! Wait! What?!”).

A trial is held before the House of Lords, and evidence is given to both implicate and exculpate Monty. It has been determined that the earl’s port was poisoned. Sibella testifies on Monty’s behalf, but, in a fit of passion, gives evidence that actually bolsters the prosecution’s alleged motive for the crime: that the D’Ysquiths disinherited his mother and denied his existence. On the evening before the jury is to render judgement, Monty is writing his memoirs in his cell and strikes up a conversation with the jail’s custodian, Chauncey. It turns out that Chauncey is a D’Ysquith too, his father having been a black sheep of the family and cast out in a manner similar to Isobel. Monty states how remarkable this is, but Chauncey says he doesn’t mind having not been acknowledged - he has none of the advantages of being a D’Ysquith, but none of their troubles, either.

Convinced of Monty’s innocence, Phoebe visits him in jail. They conclude that an unseen providence is watching over him. Phoebe wants to know why Sibella was looking at Monty in a certain way at the trial, and if she is in love with him. Phoebe takes Monty’s silence as an answer that Sibella is, and she leaves. Monty concludes his memoir, saying that the outcome will be revealed in the morning with the jury’s verdict.

Sibella arrives at the jail with a letter, purportedly from Phoebe and addressed to Monty, confessing to poisoning the earl so that he could take his rightful place. Phoebe returns to the jail with another letter, this one apparently from Sibella and also addressed to Monty, confessing the same thing. Both women plead for the other to be arrested and Monty set free. Their interrogators, Inspector Pinckney and a magistrate of the court, believe that both women appear equally culpable, and decide that they can’t convict one woman if they believe the other one guilty. Phoebe and Sibella have also provided reasonable doubt as to Monty's innocence. It becomes apparent to the audience that the two women have conspired to achieve exactly this, and prevent Monty’s conviction and execution (“That Horrible Woman”).

Monty is rousted from his slumber and, to his great surprise, set free. Cheering crowds greet him outside. Phoebe and Sibella are there, evidently content to share him between them. Monty suddenly realizes that he’s left his memoirs in his cell, replete with evidence of his guilt. However, a guard hands Monty the journal, saying he found it and thought Monty might need it. Monty wonders who poisoned the earl, if he didn’t. Miss Shingle appears, and confesses to slipping prussic acid into the earl’s port. However, if Monty had been found guilty, she professes that she would’ve stepped forward and accepted the blame. In the final moments, the company sing “this is not the end,” and Chauncey appears with a small green bottle, and sings the melody line from “Poison in My Pocket” (“Finale”).

Musical numbers[edit]

Casts[edit]

Note: Below are the principal casts of all professional major productions.

Role The Old Globe Cast Original Broadway Cast
The D'Ysquith Family Jefferson Mays
Monty Navarro Ken Barnett Bryce Pinkham
Sibella Hallward Lisa O'Hare
Phoebe D'Ysquith Chilina Kennedy Lauren Worsham
Miss Shingle Rachel Izen Jane Carr
Lady Eugenia Heather Ayers Joanna Glushak
Mr. Gorby Kendal Sparks Eddie Korbich
Tom Copley Kevin Ligon Jeff Kready
Tour Guide Catherine Walker Jennifer Smith
Detective Price Waldman
Miss Barley Heather Ayers Catherine Walker

Note: The D'Ysquith family includes Asquith D'Ysquith, Jr., Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith, Reverend Lord Ezekial D'Ysquith, Lord Asquith D'Ysquith, Sr., Henry D'Ysquith, Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith, Major Lord Bartholomew D'Ysquith, Lady Salome D'Ysquith Pumphrey, and Chauncey D'Ysquith.

Critical response[edit]

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times praised the Hartford production as "ingenious" and "among the most inspired and entertaining new musicals."[9] Isherwood also favorably reviewed the musical's Broadway production, writing that the show was "delightful," praising Mays as "dazzling," and adding that it was one of the shows "that match streams of memorable melody with fizzily witty turns of phrase."[10]

Elysa Gardner, reviewing for USA Today, also praised Mays, saying that his "comedic gifts are on glorious display." She had positive words for the direction ("witty") and the "drolly imaginative scenic and projection designs," concluding that the musical was "morbidly hilarious".[11]

According to Stagegrade, most reviewers praised the musical as fun and entertaining, although some were critical of the score ("forgettable pastiche").[12]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Sources: Playbill[13][14][15][16][17][18]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2014
Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Book of a Musical Robert L. Freedman Won
Best Original Score Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics) and Robert L. Freedman (lyrics) Nominated
Best Actor in a Musical Jefferson Mays Nominated
Bryce Pinkham Nominated
Best Featured Actress in a Musical Lauren Worsham Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Darko Tresnjak Won
Best Orchestrations Jonathan Tunick Nominated
Best Scenic Design Alexander Dodge Nominated
Best Costume Design Linda Cho Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Robert L. Freedman Won
Outstanding Music Steven Lutvak Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Steven Lutvak and Robert L. Freedman Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Jefferson Mays Won
Bryce Pinkham Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Lauren Worsham Won
Outstanding Director of a Musical Darko Tresnjak Won
Outstanding Orchestrations Jonathan Tunick Nominated
Outstanding Set Design of a Musical Alexander Dodge Nominated
Outstanding Sound Design of a Musical Dan Moses Schreier Nominated
Outstanding Projection Design Aaron Rhyne Won
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Broadway Musical Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Robert L. Freedman Won
Outstanding New Score Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics) and Robert L. Freedman (lyrics) Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Jefferson Mays Won
Bryce Pinkham Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Lisa O'Hare Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Darko Tresnjak Won
Outstanding Choreographer Peggy Hickey Nominated
Outstanding Set Design Alexander Dodge Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Linda Cho Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Philip S. Rosenberg Nominated
Drama League Award Distinguished Production of a Musical Won
Distinguished Performance Award Jefferson Mays Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ Haun, Harry. "Jefferson Mays Brings Multiple Personalities to Broadway in 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder' " Playbill.com, October 27, 2013
  2. ^ " 'Gentleman's Guide' Listing" hartfordstage.org, accessed April 11, 2014
  3. ^ Jones, Kenneth. " 'Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder', the Musical, Opens in CT; Jefferson Mays Is Multifarious" playbill.com, October 19, 2012
  4. ^ Smith, Jeff. "The Old Globe presents 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder'" sandiegoreader.com, March 20, 2013
  5. ^ "A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder" "The Old Globe", accessed April 11, 2014
  6. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "The Verdict: Critics Review 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder', Starring Tony Winner Jefferson Mays" playbill.com, November 18, 2013
  7. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Theater Review. 'A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder' on Broadway" The New York Times, November 17, 2013
  8. ^ Healy, Patrick. "Tony For Best Musical is Nice But a Profitable Hit is Better" The New York Times, June 15, 2014
  9. ^ "Theater Review. Jefferson Mays in 'A Gentlemans Guide To Love Murder' in Hartford The New York Times, October 26, 2012
  10. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Theater Review. 'A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder' on Broadway The New York Times', November 17, 2013
  11. ^ Gardner, Elysa. " 'A Gentleman's Guide' kills it with comedy" USA Today, November 17, 2013
  12. ^ Haverkate, Julie. "Critical Snapshot" stagegrade.com, accessed May 2, 2014
  13. ^ Gans, Andrew. "64th Annual Outer Critics Circle Award Winners Announced; 'Gentleman's Guide' Wins Four Awards" playbill.com, May 12, 2014
  14. ^ Gans, Andrew. "'All the Way', 'Mothers and Sons', 'After Midnight', 'Fun Home', 'Aladdin', 'Beautiful', 'Glass Menagerie', 'Lady Day' and More Are Drama League Nominees" playbill.com, April 23, 2014
  15. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Winners of 59th Annual Drama Desk Awards Announced; 'Gentleman's Guide' and 'All the Way' Win Top Prizes" playbill.com, June 1, 2014
  16. ^ Gans, Andrew. "68th Annual Tony Awards Nominations Announced; 'Gentleman's Guide' Leads the Pack" playbill.com, April 29, 2014
  17. ^ Gans, Andrew. "80th Annual Drama League Award Winners Announced; Neil Patrick Harris Wins Distinguished Performance Honor" playbill.com, May 16, 2014
  18. ^ Purcell, Carey. " 'Gent's Guide', 'All The Way', 'Hedwig And the Angry Inch', 'Raisin in the Sun' Win Top Prizes at 68th Annual Tony Awards" playbill.com, June 8, 2014

External links[edit]