‘Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ is a fun spectacle to watch

Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D'Ysquith and Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." / Photo by Joan Marcus

Reviewed by Rachel Teseneer
Times-News correspondent

   DURHAM — Rich royal reds adorned the stage Tuesday night at the Durham Performing Arts Center as audiences murmured in anticipation of the acclaimed musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”
The show made its mark on the musical world when it first debuted in 2013, and then went on to receive 10 Tony Award nominations in 2014, winning four. Of the four victories, Best Musical was among them.
Based on the book by Robert L. Freedman, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” recounts the memoirs of young Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey). After his mother’s death, Monty encounters an unexpected visitor (Mary VanArsdel) who tells him of a family fortune for which he is now in line to obtain. In order to claim the inheritance, Monty must dispatch those family members standing in his way, and all the while sort out his feelings for his fiancée, Phoebe (Adrienne Eller), and his other love, Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams).
   The show begins in an opera-like fashion, with the ensemble dramatically warning the audience about what is going to ensue. Onlookers are then introduced to Monty, who soon learns that he is a member of the D’Ysquith family. Hilarity and murder arises the very moment Monty begins to meet his D’Ysquith relatives.
The magnitude and intricacy of the set is breathtaking. Classically painted portraits and murals are hung in the D’Ysquith manor, and every new scene is portrayed with brilliant colors and props. The costumes of each character range from elegant to comically over-the-top.
Perhaps the most notable characteristic of the show is the fact that each member of the D’Ysquith family is played by one man. John Rapson, whose characters include the bumbling Reverend and the charitable Lady Hyacinth, gives each D’Ysquith member their own distinct personality and character trait. These characters are all absurdly exaggerated in the best of ways. Rapson’s genius in characterization is apparent as he draws audience members in with his energetic performances.
Massey’s portrayal of Monty is charming to watch, encapsulating Monty’s charisma along with his nervous habits. Complementing his performance are Williams and Eller, whose exquisite vocal performances will leave audiences wanting more.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is consistently energetic from start to finish. Each musical number is executed with clean and crisp precision. Each character is fully developed and possesses its own unique dose of hysteria.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is a riotous comedic spectacle worthy of a sold out crowd every night.
There is no foul language and very mild suggestive content, making this show enjoyable for all ages 10 and up.
Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. today, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets start at $35 and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, dpacnc.com, in person or by phone at (919) 680-2787.

 Rachel Teseneer is a senior home-schooler and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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