The hardest working man and woman in showbiz these days must be Jefferson Mays, who, regardless of gender, routinely runs through 64 spectacular demises a week — eight per show-times-eight performances a week — in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. The counting officially commenced Nov. 17 at the Walter Kerr.
Mays, may he rest in peace when that time comes, works up an industrious lather as the entire doomed dynasty of D'Ysquiths (pronounced DIE-swith), rather merrily go to hell in a handbasket — courtesy of the ninth of their lineage, Monty Novarro, who is not above bumping off the whole silly tribe to become the Earl of Highhurst and enjoy the rank, wealth and privilege that goes with that title.
This Guide, adapted by Robert L. Freedman from a 1907 Roy Horniman novel called "Israel Rank," puts Murder before Love, and, because Bryce Pinkham's Monty Novarro is such a busy, busy boy, only one D'Ysquith is left standing at the end of Act One.
Love arrives with Act Two — a little late, you might say — but just as turbulently with our money-driven Monty in push-pull conflict with two women — his gold-digging mistress (a luscious Lisa O'Hare) and his true-love fiancée (Lauren Worsham). The triangle physicalizes itself in a scene of sculptured slapstick, with Pinkham in the corridor struggling to keep one woman in the bedroom and the other in the parlor.
Because the show's about clawing your way up to another class, Joey Parnes and his three dozen other producers issued a black-tie edict for opening night. Even the press tuxed it out.
The post-show destination was indeed elegant, just the place you'd like to be seen: The Pierre Hotel. There have been theatre parties and Drama League galas there, but the Pierre hasn't hosted a Broadway opening-night party in eons — if ever. I can say with some authority the last 400 Broadway openings were definitely elsewhere.
There are several large rooms on the left leading in to the vast second-floor ballroom, and the theatre press laid siege to them for sound bites and photo ops.
Jane Carr was one of the first to putter in and putter out and do a deep dive into the ballroom glitz and glamour where she was forever lost to further press chit-chat. You might know her as "Mary McGregor," the "schoolgel" that Miss Jean Brodie sent off to fight, and die, on the wrong side of the Spanish Civil War in the 1969 movie version of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie." Forty-four years later she's a character actress, and, here in her fourth Broadway appearance, she's the matronly messenger who brings Monty Novarro the news that he is entitled to a slice of the D'Ysquith pie. But, best of all, she's the ditzy voiceover for the TV ads of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, sounding a lot like Carole Shelley — only demented.
Just to demonstrate what a gentlemanly show this is (despite its big body count), the two leading men designated themselves at the curtain to distribute the bouquets of rose to their six female co-stars. The deed photographed considerate and classy.
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