‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ is a mischievous jaunt

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‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ is a mischievous jaunt
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By Jordan Wright (Photo/Joan Marcus)

Having enjoyed the four-time Tony Award-winning musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” on Broadway last month, I can firmly attest it has found a national touring company cast to do it justice. Author and lyricist Robert L. Freedman and composer and lyricist Steven Lutvak can rest assured that not a beat, line, dance step, joke or note will fail to delight.

Here’s what to expect when you go, and you must, to be all the more prepared to sop it up. On your list of expectations should be dreamy love songs, a sinister Edward Gorey-like ambiance, delicious gallows humor, Fred Astaire-inspired dancing and droll Edwardian characters. Rest assured, there will be murder most foul and romance most delectably forbidden. All the elements of a ripping good show.

In the musical, we find handsome bachelor Montague Navarro (Kevin Massey), penniless and orphaned, bereft of employment prospects and in love with Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams), a strikingly gorgeous fortune hunter, who, though smitten with Monty, has her sights set on a wealthy scion.

Still mourning the loss of his mother, Monty is visited in his shabby garret by Miss Shingle (Mary VanArsdel), a spinster who knew her well. The old lady tells Monty that his mother was disinherited by her family, the D’Ysquiths, for marrying beneath her station and that he is eighth in line for the title of Earl of D’Ysquith, replete with the vast estates of Highhurst Castle.

Devising a plan to jump the line of succession by whatever means necessary, our charming hero uses his wits — and some intricate plotting — to knock off the eccentric lords and ladies that precede him. “What can I take from the D’Ysquiths except their lives,” he merrily posits.

Commencing his fact-finding journey by touring Highhurst on Visitor’s Day, he runs into Lord Adelbert, who, in full hunting regalia, trills a snooty tune entitled, “I Don’t Understand the Poor.” Twenty-two numbers accompany Monty’s murderous plots while you find yourself cheering on his diabolical schemes.

John Rapson, plays all eight D’Ysquith cousins, both male and female roles, ranging from the sputtering, apoplectic Lord Reverend and Lady Hyacinth, who has a monopoly on the downtrodden, to the gay athlete, Henry, whom he humors in “Better with a Man.” As Monty continues to ingratiate himself with the others, he meets and falls in love with his cousin Phoebe (Adrienne Eller), the embodiment of the perfect Victorian lady.

That lepers in the punjab and cannibals figure into the plot is all part of the fun, though the Gothic chorus reminds us that, “suddenly they’re congregating under the sod.”

Amid all the lethal high jinks and criss-cross romance are the fabulous voices of the cast, music director Lawrence Goldberg’s 12-piece orchestra and Linda Cho’s turn-of-the-century costumes.

Through January 30 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC. For tickets and information call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.

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