Monthly Archive for: ‘December, 2015’

Hilarious musical spoofs British aristocracy — and murder

[Woody’s Rating: ★★★★☆

Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams, left) and Phoebe D'Ysquith (Adrienne Eller) flank Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey) in “A Gentleman's Guide…” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams, left) and Phoebe D’Ysquith (Adrienne Eller) flank Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey) in “A Gentleman’s Guide…” Photo by Joan Marcus.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” is as much fun as the archetypical barrel of monkeys.

But last year’s Tony Award-winning musical comedy fills the SHN Golden Gate Theatre’s San Francisco stage with cartoonish British characters rather than simians.

Aristocratic English folks whose demise is imminent.

Eight of them (two in drag) portrayed in a touring company’s tour de farce by a lone actor, John Rapson.

Before long I couldn’t wait to see how they were offed by a likable killer (played by Kevin Massey with a tip of his bowler to Stephen Sondheim’s much darker “Sweeney Todd”).

With no razor in sight.

Employing a string of bloody brilliant but bloodless techniques — poison pills, bee-attractant, bullets, a saw, etc., etc. and so forth.

LOL. Hilarious.

So uproarious, in fact, I didn’t once think of the harrowing all-too-real serial killer segments I’ve watched on “Law & Order.”

This production is chock-full of comedy (Robert L. Freedman penned the book and co-wrote lyrics with composer Steven Lutvak).

Its plot — based on a 1907 novel that was turned into a charming 1949 cinematic black comedy starring Alec Guinness (also in eight roles) — involves the underprivileged Massey’s Monty Novarro finding out he’s really a D’Ysquith blueblood and in line to be an earl (with all the bennies that accompany the title).

John Rapson, in drag as Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith, plays eight different characters in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

John Rapson, in drag as Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith, plays eight different characters in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

All he needs to do is bump off the eight persons in line before him.

While amorously juggling Sibella Hallward (Kristen Beth Williams), his mistress, and his cousin and future wife, Phoebe D’Ysquith (Adrienne Eller, who grew up in nearby Saratoga).

Now don’t get your knickers in a twist, old chap, everything happens with snooty British tongue in chic.

And a score derivative of both Gilbert & Sullivan operetta and music hall ditties.

With catchy lyrics in such tunes as “I Don’t Understand the Poor,” “Poison in My Pocket,” “Better With a Man” and “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying?”

John Rapson portrays Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith (in red) in “A Gentleman’s Guide…” Photo by Joan Marcus.

John Rapson portrays Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith (in red) in “A Gentleman’s Guide…” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Plus defining costumes by Linda Cho, cutesy non-flamboyant, non-intrusive choreography by Peggy Hickey, and a series of incredibly creative backdrop graphics and gimmicks.

Director Darko Tresnjak, by the way, has made s most of the two-hour presentation moved swiftly (despite my finding a few second act moments dawdling a bit).

Publicity for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” advises that “getting away with murder can be so much fun.”

I can relate to that.

It’s all so veddy, veddy British, old bean, and even though some stuffed shirts across the pond might not like the show’s parodying their prissy demeanors, I did.

Indubitably.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” will run at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St. (at Market), San Francisco, through Dec. 27. Night performances, 7:30 p.m Sunday, Dec. 27; 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21; 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Matinees, 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets: $45 to $212 (subject to change). Information: (888) 746-1799 or shnsf.com.

Contact Woody Weingarten at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net

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