Gentleman’s Guide is a smash

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Despite there being only eight D’Ysquiths in the line of succession, there were nine deaths after my viewing of “Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” as the Broadway show had me dying on the floor within the first five seconds of the opening act. Monty (Bryce Pinkham), grieving his recently deceased mother, is a poor, middle-class worker whose mourning is interrupted when a friend brings surprising news–Monty is a member of the D’Ysquiths, a rich aristocratic family. His mother was disowned by her parents after eloping with a musician. He writes a letter, naming his claim to the D’Ysquith name, but is rejected. His dilemma is that the love of his life (the socially ambitious Sibella Hallward, played by Lisa O’Hare) accepts only nobility as suitors. Monty begins writing his first chapter of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

Winner of this year’s Tony for Best Musical, I have nothing but glowing praise for this comedy. The plot is simple and easy to follow, allowing the audience to focus on the comedic side of the tragedies. The highlights of the musical are the deaths of the eight heirs, each played by the radiant Jefferson Mays. And like all incestuous aristocratic families, they share the same juddering disease, shaking like rabid dogs upon death; a disease passed to the audience as well: we too were quaking in our seats. With each of his relatives dying hilariously in freak “accidents,” Monty quickly climbs the social ladder. Mr. Mays plays a large array of quirky characters, ranging from a diseased priest to an atrociously racist woman who refuses to die, despite venturing to the most dangerous parts of the world for charity. Soon, all that is left between him and the title is one snobby British aristocrat. The music and drama all lead up to a momentous, shocking, and of course, hilarious conclusion.