“A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ March 17, 2016


ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

Broadway musicals that play in the small theaters around Times Square are usually better than the touring productions the Valley sees of the same shows.  Occasionally, there’s a surprise success but that’s certainly not the case with the 2014 Tony Award winning musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” that opened Tuesday at ASU Gammage.  The plodding touring version is riddled with too many mediocre performances and there is no starring performer like Broadway’s Jefferson Mays’ award-winning New York and London performance in nine roles critical to making the very British and very convoluted farce become a success.

The show putters and struts but it never catches fire.  The musical focuses on Monty Navarro who is ninth in line to inherit his family’s fortune.  To obtain the wealth, Monty must kill the other ancestors before him.

British farces are unique and often work best in England where they are better understood and where the silly antics are relished.  With the British cast largely intact, “ Gentleman’s Guide…” moved to Broadway where it was a modest hit.

The musical’s contrived silliness demands an intimate theater where audiences can be drawn into the wild shenanigans.  ASU Gammage is too vast a space for such a small show so audiences here are unable to have much fun.

The original set sits stage center at ASU Gammage dwarfed by the auditorium.  On the stage within a stage, the plot, set in 1909 London, unspools as Monty plans and executes the murders.  The killings are presented on the tiny artificial stage complete with a tacky red curtain and painted locales.  The playing area lurches forward for each death.  It’s all daffy like most farces but in the vast ASU Gammage space it isn’t amusing.

The score is incidental.  Not one song is a tuneful winner and every production routine in the Darko Tresnjak directed and Peggy Hickey choreographed staging isn’t creative or ingratiating.

Kevin Massey as the murderer is really monotonous.  John Rapson as the nine murdered characters tries hard to bring original star Mays zaniness to the proceedings but he only musters a few fleeting moments of true humor.  Most of his actions telescope the plot’s inanity without making it funny.  A couple of women, one for each man, are given generic performances, and the only visual plus are eye-filling period costumes.

The touring “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” makes one question Tony Award winning musicals.  Either things on Broadway in 2014 were desperate or a small theater better served this minor musical confection.  The touring version continues through Sunday.  For tickets, call the ASU Gammage/Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: D

One Response to ““A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder” – ASU Gammage”

  1. Michael said:

    Mar 18, 16 at 08:30

    I respectfully disagree. The production that I saw was nimble and entertaining, not a lightweight confection. I thought the set concept was clever and was especially impressed by the constant and subtle changes in lighting that worked to great effect. I also appreciated the quick pacing and intricate blocking. This was a show where expert timing and placement resulted in seemingly effortless fun. No sappy ballads here, but the score was challenging and entertaining. Maybe you get out of it what you bring to it, but it sounds to me like you were maybe having a bad evening, not the show. I appreciate getting to see these touring companies in our “desert” and hope they successfully bring more culture in their wake. I give the show a strong – A/+B and encourage the Valley to support it.