A musical based on the book Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal (which previously inspired the film Kind Hearts and Coronets). The show opened on Broadway in 2013 and went on to win several prizes at the 2014 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Monty Navarro, the young Earl of Highhurst, is writing his memoirs while awaiting his death sentence. Monty was not always well off; in fact he spent most of his life in poverty. However, upon the death of his mother he discovers that she was part of the wealthy and powerful D'Ysquith family, led by Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith, but that she had been disinherited after eloping with his father. When his newly discovered relatives refuse to help or acknowledge him, the family's rejection of him and his mother inspires Monty to murder the eight people standing between him and the Earldom:
- Dottery drunken Reverend Lord Ezekial D'Ysquith
- Foppish dandy Asquith D'Ysquith, Jr.
- Fey beekeeper Henry D'Ysquith
- Charity Matron Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith
- Actress Lady Salome D'Ysquith Pumphrey
- Banker Lord Asquith D'Ysquith, Sr.
- The beefy Major Lord Bartholomew D'Ysquith
- And finally, Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith, Earl of Highhurst
Black Comedy and wordplay ensue.
The musical includes examples of:
- Adaptation Title Change: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder is adapted from the novel Israel Rank: the Autobiography of a Criminal.
- All Musicals Are Adaptations: Based on the 1904 novel Israel Rank: the Autobiography of a Criminal, which was previously the basis for Kind Hearts and Coronets.
- Anti-Hero: Monty is trying to improve his life and avenge his mother, but he's still a murderer.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Established immediately by Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith's intro song "I Don't Understand the Poor".
- As You Know - "You're a D'Ysquith" starts with Miss Shingle making sure we learn who the D'Ysquiths are:Miss Shingle: Have you heard of the D'Ysquith family?Monty: The D'Ysquiths? Why yes, of course! Hasn't everyone?Miss Shingle: Then you've heard of Highhurst Castle?Monty: Of course!Miss Shingle: You're aware - then, of their position, their vast wealth and influence?
- Asshole Victim: Many of the D'Ysquith family members. They're extremely condescending, self-centered, and a general pain towards their servants. In the song, "Why Are All The D'Ysquith's Dying?", the cast is more annoyed with having to attend their funerals rather than being saddened by their deaths.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Lady Salome D'Ysquith Pumphrey. All of her castmates hate her because of it.
- Bee Afraid: The fate of Henry D'Ysquith. When he shows Monty around his home, he introduces Monty to his colony of bees. Monty admits not wanting to get close for fear of being stung. He shows no fear whatsoever, saying "I dare say it would take 100 bees to kill me now!" Cue Monty immediately plotting his next murder by spraying his beekeeping helmet with English lavender to attract the bees.
- Betty and Veronica: With Phoebe as Betty and Sibella as Veronica.
- Black Comedy: Much of the show's humor comes from the increasingly ridiculous ways to play murder, revenge, and social climbing for laughs.
- Blue Blood: The D'Ysquiths are a very prominent aristocratic family.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
- Monty occasionally turns to address the audience directly, particularly during the narratives and in a back-and-forth during "Stop! Wait! What?" Also see the Brick Joke entry below.
- The other D'Ysquiths get in on the action as well, particularly Asquith D'Ysquith, Jr., who flirts with female audience members in the front rows prior to "Poison in My Pocket," and Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith, who often addresses parts of "I Don't Understand the Poor" directly to the audience (specifically those sitting in the balcony a.k.a. the "poor seats").
- Brick Joke: Monty steals a poisonous Belladonna flower during "Inside Out" in what seems to be an obvious use of Chekhov's Gun, only to give it to Chauncey D'Ysquith after the Curtain Call.
- Camp Gay: Henry D'Ysquith is quite flamboyant, and all but states to be a gay man.
- Captured by Cannibals: This is the fate Monty intends for Lady Hyacinth, but she somehow manages to escape and return to London.
- The Cat Came Back: Monty convinces Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith to travel to extremely dangerous locations in the name of charity, and is always surprised when she comes back unharmed. He decides to finish the job himself, off-stage, by causing a dock to collapse under her considerable weight..
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The belladonna flower, as mentioned above. Also Monty's memoirs.
- Averted with Monty's scarf. When murdering Asquith Jr. and Miss Barley, Monty leaves behind a scarf at the scene. He agonizes for a moment over whether he left something behind... only for it never to come up again in the narrative.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Miss Shingle.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Both Sibella and Pheobe become quite possessive over Monty when they meet, Subverted when Phoebe visits her husband shortly before his execution to ask him if Sibella loves him. Monty thinks she's turned against him for the affair but the two put aside their differences by accusing each other of the murder thus creating reasonable doubt and saving Monty. It's implied they are willing to share him at the end.
- Counterpoint Duet: "Poison in My Pocket".
- Crowd Song: Both of the act openers, "A Warning to the Audience" and "Why Are All the D'Ysquiths Dying?"
- Cutting the Knot: As stated in The Cat Came Back above, Monty finally gets rid of Lady Hyacinth with a boobytrap after she survives multiple less-direct plots.
- Death as Comedy: The basic premise of the play.
- Deuteragonist: Sort of a meta example. Not any one character, with Monty quite clearly being the story's sole lead. However, thanks to all of the D'Ysquiths other than Phoebe being played by one man, while this actor's role is smaller than Monty's, he still has plenty of material, is just as important as the show's main character, and also considered to be a leading role.
- Distant Duet: "That Horrible Woman". Sibella and Phoebe each blame the other for the murder of Lord Adalbert to the detective and magistrate respectively.
- Enforced Method Acting: In-Universe - Lady Salome meets her end when, unbeknownst to her, Monty switches the blank bullets for real ones in the gun she uses to commit suicide as Hedda Gabler.
- Enlightened Self-Interest: Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith's entire motivation for travelling across the world at Monty's suggestion — as the other society ladies (particularly Daisy Greville) have monopolized all the worthy and charitable causes available for similarly greedy reasons, Lady Hyacinth has been left needing "a cause of my own", and a unique one, to stand out and show everyone just how generous and saintly she is.Everyones got something. Cant you see why Im bereft?
I want to do some good, but what the devils left?
Now, not a word to even your mothers 'til we leave, although — come to think of it,
What is the point of helping others, unless you let the whole world know?
- Framing Device: The story is told as Monty's memoirs while he awaits his sentence in prison.
- Gag Penis: Major Lord Bartholomew D'Ysquith has a truly frightening bulge underneath his shorts.
- Gentleman Snarker: Much of the cast, albeit in a very darkly humorous way.
- The Ghost: Lionel Holland, Sibella's husband, is frequently mentioned but never seen.
- Gold Digger: Sibella turns down Monty in order to marry a much richer suitor. This backfires on her when Monty suddenly gains a title, a great deal of money, and Phoebe.
- Good Bad Girl: Sibella. And possibly Phoebe at the end.
- Gorgeous Period Dress: Phoebe and Sibella get to show off some incredibly dashing Edwardian dresses.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Monty spends most of the story finding hilarious ways to gleefully murder his relatives and juggling two love interests, all without remorse. And yet he still has the motives of a traditional hero: wanting to win the heart of the girl he loves, and avenging his mother.
- Hey, Wait!: Just as Monty is being released from prison, a guard stops him while saying he found his memoirs. The guard wanted to make sure he didn't leave his memoirs behind. Especially funny as they contained a full written confession of the various murders.
- Homoerotic Subtext: The entire song between Henry and Monty, "Better With A Man," is full of wordplay that deliberately evokes this.When a fellow needs a little helping hand
Who'll be there? It's almost guaranteed
No one else could ever really understand
Only another man knows what you need
And when a man has fallen down upon his knees
In such a moment who'd be better than
Someone who's self-controlled
Someone who's strong and bold
Someone as good as gold
It's better with a man.
- Incoming Ham: Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith's entrance in "I Don't Understand the Poor":Adalbert: I say, you there! Hands off that sword! Put down that book! Isn't enough we let ya look?!
- The Ingenue: Phoebe. Subverted at the end which reveals that she's not quite as innocent as we all thought - though still very sweet and caring.
- Innocent Soprano: Phoebe... though the ending implies that her innocence may be a facade.
- Karma Houdini: Monty, in the end. Despite murdering seven people he winds up with the wealth, title, and the love of both Phoebe and Sibella. This is even after writing a confession of the crime.
- But then again, Chauncey has some poison in his pocket...
- But then again, there is that Brick Joke up there...
- Monty goes beyond houdini levels, pretty much every terrible thing he does leads to something good happening. For example. murdering Asquith Jr. leads to Asquith Sr. giving him a good job, murdering Henry leads to Phoebe falling for him, etc.
- Miss Shingle gets away with murdering Adalbert, framing Monty, and essentially kick-starting the entire plot.
- Kick the Dog: One of Monty's primary motivation for murdering the D'Ysquith's is their cruel treatment of disowning his mother, dooming her to a life of poverty, all for falling in love with his father who was a simple working-class man.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Lord Adalbert, poisoned during "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun."
- Kissing Cousins: Phoebe and Monty are cousins, though not too closely related.
- Lady in Red: The supremely sexy Sibella.
- Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Elegant, kind Phoebe is the Light to Sibella's flirtatious, passionate Dark.
- Loads and Loads of Roles: All eight of the D'Ysquith heirs plus Chauncey D'Ysquith (both male and female) are portrayed by a single actor (in the original cast, Jefferson Mays earned a Tony nomination for the feat).
- Love at First Sight: Monty and Phoebe are instantly smitten with each other when they first meet at Henry D'Ysquith's country estate.
- Love Triangle: Between Monty, Phoebe, and Sibella. Comes to a head during "I've Decided to Marry You."Monty: Look at Phoebe, noble and pious, my esteem for her only grows,But, when I am with Phoebe, I am on fire thinking ofSibella, full of desire, passion and, dare I say it, love?But, when Im with Sibella, whom do I admire? None butPhoebe, perfect and lovely, who couldnt love her, heaven knows?Round and round and round it goes!
- Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: All the characters and plotlines intersect in the extended Act 1 finale, "The Last One You'd Expect."
- Nice to the Waiter: A good indication of how big an Asshole Victim a D'Ysquith is by how they treat their servants and others around them.
- Not the Fall That Kills You: How Reverend Lord Ezekial D'Ysquith meets his Maker.
- Off with His Head!: The fate of Major Lord Bartholomew D'Ysquith, via Monty overloading his barbell. It's even used as a grisly prop.
- Pink Means Feminine: Sibella.Sibella: Don't you just love me in pink?
- The Precarious Ledge: Ezekial D'Ysquith takes Monty out on one during his long lecture on cathedral architecture. He loses his balance and spends enough time teetering for Monty to have an inner monologue. One harsh exhale is enough to send him over the edge.
- Prophetic Name: D'Ysquith is pronounced an awful lot like "Dies Quick."
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Sibella and Phoebe to a tee. They even wear giant pink/red and blue/purple dresses, respectively.
- Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Sibella is in love with Monty but chooses to marry her much richer suitor instead. This backfires when Monty suddenly becomes very rich and successful, meaning she could have married for love.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Monty agonizes over the idea of killing Lord Asquith D'Ysquith, Sr., who had shown him nothing but kindness and treated him like a son. Lord Asquith dies painlessly of a heart attack mid-song. Monty doesn't waste a beat plotting the next and final murder.
- A man finds Monty's memoirs admitting to the murders...only to give it back to Monty without reading it.
- Lady Hyacinth is pretty clearly named after Hyacinth Bucket (who has a similar interest in keeping up appearances), and Monty's name might well be a nod to Monty Python.
- Sibella Hallward is a combination of two characters from The Picture of Dorian Gray: Basil Hallward and Sybil. Salome might also be a reference to Oscar Wilde's play of the same name.
- When the setting shifts to Egypt, the song "Lady Hyacinth Abroad" quotes the Triumphal March from Giuseppe Verdi's Aïda.
- Snicket Warning Label: The opening number has the Chorus warn the audience that the play is "a tale of revenge and retribution." and urge them to leave if they are squeamish.
- Threesome Subtext: The ending seems to imply that Sibella and Phoebe don't really mind sharing Monty.
- Title Drop: In the opening, when Monty is starting his memoir.Monty: I suppose one could call it a gentleman's guide to murder. Or perhaps, a guide to love...and murder.
- True Blue Femininity: The "noble and pious" Phoebe.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance: With the exception of Monty and Phoebe, the D'Ysquiths all look strangely similar. note Lampshaded by Asquith, Sr.'s reaction to a photograph of Monty's mother: "She resembles many of the women [in the family portraits]. And some of the men, too."
- Upper-Class Twit: Pretty much most of the D'Ysquith's, with a big emphasis on Asquith D'Ysquith Jr.
- Villain Song: Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith has "I Don't Understand the Poor". Depending on your point of view, Monty's "Poison in My Pocket" may be one. Naturally, both are played for laughs.
- Walking Spoiler: Chauncey D'Ysquith. He's not even included in the family tree to retain the surprise of his appearance!
- Warning Song: At the top of the show, in "A Warning to the Audience", the Chorus alerts the audience that this is their last chance to leave before utterly appalling events unfold. Later in the show, in "A Warning to Monty," they use the same music in-universe.