Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: New Jersey

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
Review by Bob Rendell

Christopher Sutton (left), Miles Jacoby (center),
and Cast

Photo by Avery Brunkus
The acclaimed, richly unique Broadway musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder has arrived at the New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre on the lovely campus of Drew University in Madison (arrive early and enjoy a refreshing Spring stroll on the campus).


With music by the late Steven Lutvak, book by Robert L. Freeman, and lyrics by Lutvak and Freeman, it is a doozy of a comic musical murder mystery, and you should make certain not to miss it. Because of its clearly widespread appeal to people of all ages, I am already jumping ahead of myself and thinking the words "extended run." The musical is based on "Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal," a novel by Roy Horniman.

As the curtain rises, a grim chorus funereally dressed completely in black warns us (falsely, but with delightful musical intensity) as to the nature of the evening ahead.

Ensemble: "A Warning to the Audience":
For those of you of weaker constitution
For those of you who may be faint of heart
This is a tale of revenge and retribution
So if you're smart
Before we star,
You'd best depart
You'd best depart

Now just sing these lyrics to yourself, to your own melody, and you will be fully aware of the musicality of the lyrics which Lutvak provides.

This most thrilling and not to be missed magnificent musical score consists of ruffles and flourishes, period dance music, lively comic music hall comic set pieces and beautiful, and lush melodies.

We find ourselves catapulted back to 1909 with Lord Montague (Monty) D'Ysquith (played with subtlety by the smooth and dimensional Miles Jacoby) in jail. D'Ysquith informs us that on this night, possibly the last night before his execution, he is about to write his memoirs. It seems that just two years earlier, the suave and charming Lord Monty was a bored and most dissatisfied member of the working class. His true love, the beautiful, but incredibly vapid and self-absorbed Sibella Hallward (perfectly cast and performed by Claire Layton) has rejected him and is planning to marry another man of higher social status strictly in order to raise her own.

(Isabella to Monty)
Oh, what I put you through
I don't know what I'd do
Oh you know that it's true
I don't know what I'd do without you
(Don't you just love me in pink?)

However, things changed for Monty two years earlier with the passing of his mother. At that time, his mother's best friend, washerwoman Miss Shingle (portrayed with charming eccentricity by Lauren Cohn), informed Monty that his mother was a member of the D'Ysquith family which had disowned her when she eloped with a Canadian musician, and had since concealed Monty's heritage from him in order to shield him from her shame. Furthermore, Monty has since risen to ninth in line to succeed to the Earldom of Highhurst.

Brooding over his pain from the vicissitudes of his lowly social status, Monty decides to write a letter to Asquith D'Ysquith, the head of the family's banking business, to request a job. Not only does his son Asquith D'Ysquith, Jr. send Monty a letter denying his request, but he also denies the existence of Monty's mother, and warns Monty against contacting the family again. With this and further insult, the seeds of Monty's hilariously murderous spree are now planted.

Most thrilling and not to be missed is the magnificent musical score consisting of ruffles and flourishes, period dance music, lively comic music hall set pieces, and beautiful, lush melodies.

Each of the eight male and female D'Ysquiths ahead of Monty to succeed to the Earldom are played with delightful comic madness by Christopher Sutton.

In the spirit of "A Warning to the Audience": For those of you who should make restitution
For those of you whose class sets folks apart
We'll cut your guts out for distribution
So snobby farts
And privileged tarts
We want your hearts
We want your hearts

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder runs through June 9, 2024, at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theater, 36 Madison Ave. Madison NJ. Performances are Tuesday-Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm/Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8:00pm); Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00pm. For tickets and information, please visit

The Cast: in alphabetical order:
Javier Alfonso Castellanos: Man #2/Chief Inspector Pinckney
Lauren Cohn: Miss Shingle
Bobby Cook Gallagher: Man #1/Tom Copley
Miles Jacoby: Montague "Monty" Navarro
Eryn LeCroy: Phoebe D'ysquith
Claire Leyden: Sibella Hallward
Francesca Mehrotra: Woman #3/Miss Evangeline Barley
James Conrad Smith: Man #3/Magistrate
Christopher Sutton: The D'ysquith Family
Kayla Ryan Walsh: woman #1/tour guide
Katie Zaffrann: Woman #2/Lady Eugenia D'ysquith