In 2004, actor Jefferson Mays won the Tony for his multi-character performance in the solo show "I Am My Own Wife." Now, Mays is back on Broadway in another multi-character role in the new musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."
There's something about the British music hall that spikes the creative juices in American musical composers. Case in point: the exquisitely constructed "A Gentleman's Guide To Love and Murder." Clever, charming, inspired – all of the above. And if it's a little too long, well then I say the more the merrier.
The story set in 1909 concerns Monty Navarro, a young man of limited means who discovers just after the death of his mother that she was an heir to the well-to-do D'Ysquith family. But they disinherited her when she married – horrors - a Castilian musician. Monty also learns that there are eight people standing between him and the coveted earldom of Highhurst. So naturally, he decides to murder them all. And that's where it gets real fun.
Each one of the targeted D'Ysquiths is played by the inimitable Jefferson Mays. And almost as impressive as his spot-on characterizations are his split-second costume changes, complete with facial hair, wigs and womanly parts!
Adding to the thrill are the delightfully ghoulish methods of dispatching the victims. Director Darko Tresnjak's production delivers with wry invention and humor.
The music by Steven Lutvak, who co-wrote the lyrics with book writer Robert L. Freedman, is tunefully rich, and much like Gilbert and Sullivan ditties, the witty lyrics stand out.
The performances are all pitch perfect. Among the leads, Lisa O'Hare and Lauren Worsham as the love interests, and Jane Carr, are sublime.
Bryce Pinkham has the tough job of making the homicidal Monty someone to root for, and he succeeds in spades.
And best of all, Mays - famed for his multiple personalities in "I Am My Own Wife" - does it again. This masterful actor's precision and versatility is a complete marvel.
"A Gentleman's Guide" could easily serve as a primer itself on how to put on an intelligent crowd-pleaser with supreme wit and ingenuity,