What a jolly good time! What’s that you say? An entirely new musical? Original writing, choreography, a wonderful cast and director, AND a success as this year’s Tony-winning Best Musical? What a breath of fresh air. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder was the underdog of the season, despite the fantastic reviews this past fall. It simply fell in the shadow of blockbusters like Aladdin, but as the Act One Finale “The Last One You’d Expect” states, this was the musical to take home the awards this year (Best Musical, Book, Costume Design, and Direction) plus six additional Tony nominations.
Written by Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics – and a welcome newcomer to Broadway), Gentleman’s Guide is based on a 1907 novel by Roy Horniman. Bryce Pinkham plays the titular character, a gentleman named Monty Navarro. Monty tells his story from prison as he takes us back to how everything began – when he finds out that he is a distant relative of the royal family, the D’Ysquiths. In fact, only eight relations stand between him and the current Earl of Highhurst. Meanwhile, Jefferson Mays plays all of said relations, and after being scorned by the family, Monty begins to take them out, one by one, getting closer and closer to the Earl himself. Both men are hilarious and spot-on in their roles(sss). Monty also finds himself torn between two women, Sibella and Phoebe, played by Lisa O’Hare and Lauren Worsham respectively, who are making fantastic Broadway debuts.
To say the least, the show is a romp full of catchy, clever songs. It’s packed with mugging and “wink winks” at the audience, and it works because the jokes are solid, and the actors telling them know what they’re doing. Once your ear adjusts to the English accent, it’s pretty much non-stop laughter with comedy ranging from sly wit to full-out slapstick. To the best of my knowledge, farcical musicals are few and far between. The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the closest thing I can compare it to within the musical genre. Like Drood, this is clean and sharp. The number performed on the Tony Awards, although it seems like it’s in hyper speed taken out of context, certainly does the show justice in my book.
Another reason the show is so successful is you can tell that the cast is having a blast, too. I mean, how can you not with material like that? Murder has never been so much fun.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Book and Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman, Music and Lyrics by Steven Lutvak, Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Walter Kerr Theatre, Open-Ended
Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich
Pictured: Jefferson Mays and the Cast of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
So I know I’m beyond behind on my reviews, but I figure we should take a moment to discuss Sunday night’s Tony Awards. Did you watch? DVR it for later? I got comfortable in my pajamas and sat back to enjoy an evening of theatre. Here’s a brief look at my take on some of the highs and lows of the evening.
Jessie Mueller! Carole King! A wonderful performance and a much-deserved win for Miss Mueller as Best Leading Actress in a Musical. I haven’t even seen the show, and I love her! I do admit that I was also deeply rooting for Kelli O’Hara as it was her fifth nomination and she certainly deserves it after all these years. Perhaps next year for The King and I? Nonetheless, Jessie has been taking the theatre community by storm ever since On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. I’m stoked for her and can’t wait to see Beautiful.
Three words: Idina. Effin. Menzel. Well, let me back up. First there was Jonathan Groff’s brilliant introduction, and then the house was subsequently brought down with her If/Then 11 o’clock number. And yet, people haven’t been talking about it! I did not see my Facebook or Twitter feed freaking out afterward. Weren’t you watching, theatre fans? Honestly, in my eyes, this may have been the performance of the evening.
Also, let’s rejoice for Best Musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – a fantastic performance and an even more hilarious introduction by Jefferson Mays. Let’s hear it for the underdog of the season actually getting its due with its multiple wins.
Cabaret and Alan Cumming? Solid of course.
James Monroe Iglehart’s praise shout.
Lena Hall’s heartfelt speech.
I also want to give a shout-out to Sutton for always being glorious.
And that Hedwig performance?? Yes! I’m so excited to see it in a few weeks!
And perhaps the ultimate highlight of the evening: Audra. Tears. Will Swenson. Tears. Standing ovation. More tears. Making history in two ways. For those of you who don’t know the momentousness of Audra’s win on Sunday for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, she is now the winner of the most Tony awards. She had five, tying with Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris, and now she has a whopping six, on top of the fact that she is now the only person who has won in all four performance categories! Audra McDonald = Queen of Broadway. Can she host next year?
Clint Eastwood and whatever that presenting was supposed to be.
The opening? I’m sorry, I just wasn’t into it. I do like how so many shows had cameos, and the awkward elevator ride with NPH was delightful, and I understand that they likely didn’t bother with a “traditional” opening number because it could never compete with last year’s. But seriously – Hugh Jackman just bouncing the whole time? Yes, I know it refers to something specific, but we’re really going to take an obscure reference and make it the centerpiece of a four-minute opening number? C’mon Tony writers, you can do better than that. You want more people to tune in? Don’t lose them in the first few minutes!
Sting, I’m bored.
Aladdin’s Friend Like Me was like watching a seizure on stage. And listen, if the funniest part of the song is when the Genie stops to sing from different Disney movies, then I think there’s an inherent problem with the show. People out there who want to spend money on Aladdin? I’m just saying – that’s the best you’re gonna get. They played their best hand on Sunday, so if you didn’t enjoy that number, you might want to reconsider your options.
Zach Braff’s hair.
I thought ROCKY was a musical. Also? Shortest fight ever.
This has been a common rant on Facebook and everywhere else so I won’t digress too long, but I will say I too am tired of the out-of-place Hollywood actors presenting. I love you Tina Fey, but why are you up there and not a Broadway vet? It’s all to improve ratings and get viewers, right? Well, ratings were lower this year. Maybe they should focus more on the theatre community and what we do best and feature more performances from the current season instead of a Music Man rap with LL Cool J and T.I.? Sure, The Bridges of Madison County closed, but couldn’t we get a song with Steven and Kelli? Anyway, more on that and the recent Tony Award Administration Committee ruling in a later post.
All in all, it was a relatively smooth evening without too many hitches, and we got to see some great numbers (go here to watch the rest of the performances). Here’s to another season of theatre!