Theater review: ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder’ — 2 stars

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

If last season’s exceptional Broadway revival of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” could barely eke out its limited run at the not-for-profit Roundabout, how could the producers of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” also devised as a silly English music hall pastiche, possibly expect this far inferior musical to succeed in a commercial run?

Functioning mainly as a comedic showcase for Jefferson Mays, who shot to acclaim exactly a decade ago for his tour-de-force performance in “I Am My Own Wife,” Mays portrays eight different members of the aristocratic Highhurst family, often switching from one to the other in a matter of seconds.

Set in Edwardian England, the young and struggling Monty Navarro (Bryce Pinkham) learns that he is a lost-lost member of the family line. When the family initially spurns him, he opts to murder the various relatives who stand in front of his succession to a prestigious dukedom.

Darko Tresnjak’s polished production begins on a promising note, with the small ensemble warning the audience of the supposedly scandalous nature of the story.

With a thin premise, a sluggish book and unmemorable songs that vaguely resemble work by Gilbert & Sullivan and Noel Coward, the show makes for a tiresome 21/2 hours that depend mainly upon Mays’ frequent costume changes, death scenes and all-around versatility to lend an air of slapstick. Pinkham, on the other hand, comes off as too affected to garner audience sympathy.