'A Gentleman's Guide ... ' provides laughs with a slight shade of darkness
‘A Gentleman’s Guide … ‘ provides laughs with a slight shade of darkness

We’re all entitled to some occasional, light-hearted, murderous fun from time to time. And there’s no better way to harmlessly indulge in a high body count than the thoroughly enjoyable “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” playing now through Sept. 25, at the Fox Theatre.

The story is one of a young social climber named Monty Navarro (charmingly played by Kevin Massey), who at the turn of the 20th century finds himself living in London with hardly any prospects.

His paramour, Sibella Hallward (Kristen Beth Williams), adores Monty, but not as much as she adores status, so she marries a stuffy aristocrat.

It is about this time Monty’s mother dies and he learns some shocking news she had belonged to the rich and powerful D’Ysquith family and Monty himself is eighth in the line of succession to inherit the family’s earldom.

Monty’s cheery and gentle heart darkens when he learns the D’Ysquiths cruelly disowned his mother for marrying below her station and when his own overtures to the family are quickly rebuffed.

After a quasi-accident, it occurs to Monty the quickest way to improve his prospects and impress Sibella would be to secure the position of earl by any means necessary.

Of course, it helps that all of the D’Ysquiths standing in his way are especially horrid people (for proof, look no further than Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith’s number “I Don’t Understand the Poor”).

Adding to the fun of the show is every despicable D’Ysquith is played by John Rapson, who brilliantly embodies each member of the D’Ysquith family’s unique brand of terribleness.

Further complicating things for Monty is as he begins to ascend in the family, he makes the acquaintance of a lovely distant cousin, Phoebe D’Ysquith (Adrienne Eller), who he almost immediately falls for.

This show is nothing but a lot of good, silly fun. The production is cleverly staged, with each member of the D’Ysquith family getting his or her own distinct sendoff. The songs don’t particularly stand out on their own, but they are highly enjoyable in the context of the story and a few provide the excuse for some madcap antics, such as the number “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” where Monty juggles the affections of both Sibella and Phoebe, while only a pair of quickly opening and closing doors separates them.

The cast is solid throughout. Rapson is a force of nature as he leaps from part to part, with each character more over-the-top than the last. But it is Massey’s winning personality that carries the show, as he not only guides us through the complicated plot, but he gives some winking and slick vocal performances in songs like “Poison in My Pocket” and “Stop! Wait! What?!”

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” is a high-energy lark that is as entertaining as any show you’re likely to see come through the Fox Theatre. It is a delight and not to be missed by those who like their laughs with a slight shade of darkness.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” is playing now through Sept. 25, at the Fox Theatre. For tickets, call 314-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.

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