Gentlemen’s Guide To Love & Murder. . .

Feb 19

Gentlemens_Guide_To_Love__Murder. . . Meets The 
Book of Mormon 

Is there room for a hit show on Broadway that doesn’t involve jokes about fucking babies as a cure for AIDS?

Thank the lord there is!

It’s The Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder and I’d swear on the actual Book of Mormon itself that it’s as funny as its English cousin, the great classic movie, Kind Hearts and Coronets. Both were based loosely on a 1909 novel, The Autobiography of a Criminal, and the film made a star of Alec Guinness, who plays 8 roles (including two women), all victims of a devious fortune hunter who knocks off the relatives that stand in his way of becoming a duke.

Quick! Check Hulu or Netflix! Ya gotta see this movie. Buy it if you must. You’ll still be hundreds of dollars ahead because of the money you’ll save on tickets to The Book of Mormon on Broadway.

Book_Of_MormonDON’T SEE MORMON??

What are I saying here? That you shouldn’t see the show that is, according to Jon Stewart (and we all do so love Jon Stewart), the best thing that has ever  happened—or will ever happen—to The Great White Way? Okay, okay, see it if you’ve got your heart set on it, but be prepared to spend an obscene amount of money for mediocre seats or worse.

Last summer, I lusted for Mormon so bad I could taste it, which is pretty funny because yes, while the show has funny moments, it is also pretty tasteless. Unless you really, really like jokes about abusing babies. And maggots in some guy’s scrotum. Is that even possible?

Anyway, I had the incredible luck of getting house seats to the show. I was so thrilled that I checked in at the theatre before dinner that night just to make sure that this wasn’t all some great cosmic joke. It wasn’t. We went, we saw, we wondered whether we were seeing the same show as Jon Stewart. Yes, the opening number featuring the all-white, white-shirted wide-eyed missionaries headed for Darkest Africa, and that great anthem to repression, “Turn It Off,” were both impressive, but really. The best show ever? I think not.


Just a block away from The Book of Mormon is The Gentleman’s Guide to Love And Murder at the Walter Kerr Theatre, and we got tickets for that show (not cheap but not off the wall) with “relative” ease. Didn’t have the hype of Mormon, but I knew it was related to Kind Hearts and Coronets, and figured that it had to be good.

It was! The word reviewers seem to be using for the show is . . .


Gentlemens_Guide_DanceAnd who am I to disagree. It’s actually quite different from the movie (and the book, I hear), but equally delightful. Bryce Pinkham plays a poor relation of the Dysquith (pronounced DIE-skwith) family who realizes that he’s 8th in line to be the Duke, if it weren’t for those pesky relatives who stand in his way.

Not for long! The wily wannabe bumps them off, one at a time, only pausing for a steamy affair with the delicious Sibella and a decorous courtship with Edith Dysquith, a far more proper choice to wear the coronet of Duchess. A future Duke has to think of things like that.

All the relatives (all of them!) are played by the Tony winner Jefferson Mays, who transforms into characters as varied as an insufferable dandy, a pompous martinette, a deadly boring minister, and a battleax of a do-gooder— changing genders and costumes with head-spinning speed. The rakish Mr. Mays says he owes it all to Velcro—”and a team of muscular and determined dressers.” But to the audience it looks like pure magic (it’s called acting). BTW: The rest of the cast, the sets, the scenery, are excellent and only add to the fun.

Of course, complications ensue: it ain’t easy to pull off all that murder and mayhem without a few glitches, and one little mistake gets him into more than a spot of very ironic trouble in the end, although we all not so secretly hope that he’ll get away with it somehow.

The Serial Killer VS The Do Gooders

Book_of_Mormon_ChorusSo we have on one hand an accomplished murderer, and on the other a group of naïve Mormon missionaries— and we’re voting for the murderer? You bet we are.

I was grateful to see Book of Mormon to find out what all the fuss was about. Still not sure. But I was delighted to see Gentleman’s Guide and left the theatre feeling better about life than I did when I entered it. The theatre, not life. I was a very happy baby.

Have I become so cynical, or even (Gasp!) bitter that I can rave about a show where bodies pile up faster than the family fortune?

No, not a bit.

Gentleman’s Guide is the lightest of dark comedies, and you laugh, not cringe, at the antics. And there’s nary a sign of a violated infant or any of those infested body parts I’d rather not hear about  in a musical comedy. Or anywhere.

Escapism? You bet. Hey, I live in New York, and I’ll take my escapism wherever I find it. Especially on Broadway, and especially when it’s well acted, well produced and very, very funny.

So yes, Virginia, there’s a place on Broadway, not to mention in my heart, for a show exactly like this.


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