Too early for Tonys but “Gentleman’s Guide” might have the actor to beat by Kevin M. Thomas

Gentleman's Guide to Love

Tony voters take note: Jefferson Mays should not be forgotten when it comes time for picking Best Actor in a Musical for his amazing, ribald, riotous multi-character work in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.”

GGLMBway0851rHe’s so good that he should also be up for featured actor.

“Gentleman” has had a bumpy road to Broadway and it seems it still has some rough patches ahead. The musical is one of the best and most inventive shows currently on stage but it’s only playing to 80% capacity (even though it has been steadily growing due to word of mouth). It is likely bringing in loads of theatre lovers with a sophisticated palate, but still tourists seem to prefer the jukebox musicals that are more style over substance. This show has both.

A hit in its pre-Broadway run, “Gentleman” is not based upon the classic Alex Gunniess film “Kind Hearts and Coronets.” It actually is the same tale, from the novel by Roy Horniman, but one of the show’s obstacles has been to get the rights to make it into a musical and one of the things lost in this battle was the “Coronets” title.

No matter, a rose by any other name is a rose. And “Gentleman” is a refreshing bouquet of wit, manners, murder and mayhem.

“Gentleman” is of a young man (excellent and sexy Bryce Pinkham) who discovers after his mother’s death that he is just eight people away from being a Duke. Since his family has been disowned, the only way to become the royal leader is to kill off the eight relatives between him and the crown – all played to hilt and with flawless comedic style and delivery by Mays.

GGLMBway0886rThis is the part of all parts that actors would kill to have and Mays is, well, amazing. He brings out slapstick humor when he needs to and makes every character original and lively.

Pinkham can almost be lost in such a big shadow, but he manages to have just as much fun on stage and also captivates the audience much like his character captivates a few of the females on stage.

The songs are witty and brisk and a few with time-appropriate vaudevillian panache. It’s surprising this is the Broadway debut of composer and lyricist Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak as they achieve the perfect balance of memorable tunes that are also plot-advancing and just droll enough to bring this show to the next level.

Other “stars” of the show are scenic, costume, lighting and projection designers Alexander Dodge, Linda Cho, Philip S. Rosenberg and Aaron Rhyne who work in tandem to take the modest Walter Kerr stage and create ingenious sets that change from one scene to another with a blink of an eye – from ice rink to country meadow in just seconds. All the while Mays is being quickly transformed off stage into his new character – complete with a wonderful new look from hair and wig designer Charles LaPointe.

It’s way too early for Tony voters to remember this wonderful production. Hopefully, the audience will keep it into the theatres. It certainly deserves the same recognition that the movie it’s not based upon received – one of the 100 best British films ever made.

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