Outlandish Ahmanson: ‘Love and Murder'

The Edwardian-era romp oozes unflappable spunk and high spirits.

April Fools' Day is not merely about pranks (though they dominate) nor misdirection (though that tempts many) nor hokey jokes of the ribald and wicked sort (despite having heard that those are rather popular in certain quarters).

It is, at its wink-wink heart, an occasion devoted to the droll, to surprise, to lightly iffy behavior and to outrageous outcomes that people weren't necessarily expecting. 

Which makes it the perfect holiday for "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," the winner of the 2014 Tony for Best Musical. There are no classic April-Fools-ian high jinks within, but there is the plucky Monty Navarro, a young man who, while not the classic cad, has his eye on a hard-to-achieve, by-any-means-necessary prize.

That's the Earldom of Highhurst, a glorious get for the scraping-by lad. Deviously dispatching an octet of D'Ysquiths along the way — that's the family name of his lordship, and a super surname to say aloud a few times, while pondering deeply — is Monty's only way to ascend to the throne. Or, rather, to ascend to the stuffy, long-dining-room-table'd, portrait-packed manor that has served as the musty home for a veritable pearl string of ancient earls.

It's all very romp-tastic, with the flavor of a Technicolor '60s-era costume comedy (the decade that worshipped at the altar of Edwardianism in all of its spatsy, monocled ways). The show's songs are similarly outsized -- "Inside Out," a duet between Monty and his possible paramour Phoebe, sure is a charmer — and the acting is as shiny as a newly minted pound sterling.

Cheers to Kevin Massey ("Monty") and to John Rapson, who takes double/triple/octuple duty by filling into several pairs of shoes and personas, all of which are cunning in their own sharp-edged, droll-fun way.

Final date for the Broadway hit's Ahmanson Theatre run? Why that's May 1, the day long associated with flowers in popular culture. It so happens the deadly belladonna bud makes a not-insignificant cameo, making it a fine final day for the production, which is as brightly hued as a flower, or perhaps a boiled sweet sitting in an apothecary jar in some ye olde candy shop window.

"Final days," by the by, are something of a theme, making it a farce with a fatalistic edge. It's a chilling/charming combo that doesn't sashay onto stages nearly enough, but perhaps "Love" really can conquer — and inspire — all.

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