Just two short years ago, “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder” came to Broadway pretty much out of left field and quickly established itself as an uproarious musical that racked up no less than four Tony Awards (including “Best Musical”). During its first ever national tour (currently in residence at Chicago’s Bank Of America Theatre), it was once again apparent just how much this bawdy brand of British humor is sticking in the States, landing somewhere between Monty Python’s outrageous “Spamalot” and periodically tapping into the general cultural irreverence of “The Book Of Mormon.”
Chances are those standing ovations will keep on coming given its track record on Broadway and now this laugh-loaded Chicago launch that once again delivers Monty’s madcap memoir with a bang.
Although fans of either production will likely fall in love with this intentional farce, “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder” truly stands in a comical class of its own as Monty Navarro (the jovial Kevin Massey) finds out he’s the distant heir to a royal family and stakes his claim to the throne, even if it means getting rid of several relatives standing in the way. While he comes across as a jolly soul who “couldn’t hurt a fly,” his devious side manages to get each successor in an accident-prone position, and after feigning oblivion to their demise, climbs one ladder rung higher on the family tree.
Beyond seeking power through murder, Monty is also on a voracious quest for love, as sticky as it is circling between his money-hungry mistress Sibella (the perfectly over the top Kristen Beth Williams) and a much more sincere fiancée Phoebe (the gushing Adrienne Eller), who just so happens to be his cousin. Between trying to keep the ladies happy and constantly dodging the authorities, hilarity ensures during practically every scene, propelled by such delightfully peculiar tunes as “Poison In My Pocket,” “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying,” “Stop! Wait! What?!” and “That Horrible Woman.”
Perhaps more than the side-splitting story or the equally riotous soundtrack, the real ace in the hole for this edition is John Rapson, who magnificently juggles the zany personas of the entire D’Ysquith family (no matter male or female). Another major selling point of “A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder” is the video wall behind the actors, which helps translate otherwise difficult scenes to the stage, including falling through ice (after Monty softens it with a saw) and getting stung by a swarm of bees (also at his cologne-spraying hands).
It all may sound like a somewhat predictable chain of events as the main man succeeds with death after death, but the finale plays out as a classic “who dunnit?” cliffhanger that extends beyond the very last bow of the curtain call. And chances are those standing ovations will keep on coming given its track record on Broadway and now this laugh-loaded Chicago launch that once again delivers Monty’s madcap memoir with a bang.
“A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder” continues at the Bank Of America Theatre through October 11. For additional details and ticket information, visit www.broadwayinchicago.com and www.agentlemansguidebroadway.com.