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John Rapson Portrays Eight Hapless D’Ysquiths in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder at DPAC

John Rapson (left) plays Henry D'Ysquith (and seven other hapless D'Ysquiths), whom Monty Navarro (played by Kevin Massey) hopes to murder, so that he can claim the D'Ysquith family fortune and the hereditary earldom of Highhurst (photo by Joan Marcus)

John Rapson (left) plays Henry D’Ysquith (and seven other hapless D’Ysquiths), whom Monty Navarro (played by Kevin Massey) hopes to murder, so that he can claim the D’Ysquith family fortune and the hereditary earldom of Highhurst (photo by Joan Marcus)

The newly commenced First National Tour of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, one of the hottest tickets on Broadway, will play the Durham Performing Arts Center on Oct. 13-18 as part of DPAC‘s SunTrust Broadway Series. This wonderfully wicked musical comedy is based on the same 1907 British novel, Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman (1874-1930), that served as the basis for the devilishly dark 1949 Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets in which a distant heir to a dukedom sets out to murder the eight other heirs ahead of him, who are all played — distinctly and quite delightfully — by Sir Alec Guinness (1914-2000).

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, directed by Darko Tresnjak and choreographed by Peggy Hickey, made its Broadway debut on Nov. 17, 2013 at the Walter Kerr Theatre, where it is still running with 793 performances in the book as of Oct. 11, 2015. The show earned ten 2014 Tony Award® nominations, and won four Tonys — including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Robert L. Freedman), Best Direction of a Musical, and Best Costume Design of a Musical (Linda Cho — plus the 2014 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical, the 2014 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Musical, and the 2014 Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Musical. The cast album was also nominated for the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, which was won by Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which just played DPAC on Sept. 23-27 and Sept. 29-Oct. 4.

Kevin Massey plays sociopathic social climber Montague D’Ysquith “Monty” Navarro, and fellow Broadway veteran John Rapson boldly ventures into Alec Guinness territory to play the octet of unfortunate heirs to the D’Ysquith (pronounced “die-quick”?) family fortune — and the earldom of Highhurst — who stand ahead of Navarro in the line of succession — Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr.; Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith; the Rev. Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith; Lord Asquith D’Ysquith, Sr.; Henry D’Ysquith; Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith; Major Lord Bartholomew D’Ysquith; and Lady Salomé D’Ysquith Pumphrey — plus a a jail custodian named Chauncey.

Kristen Beth Williams (left), Kevin Massey, and Adrienne Eller star as Sibella Hallward, Monty Navarro, and Phoebe D'Ysquith (photo by Joan Marcus)

Kristen Beth Williams (left), Kevin Massey, and Adrienne Eller star as Sibella Hallward, Monty Navarro, and Phoebe D’Ysquith (photo by Joan Marcus)

The current touring production, which debuted on Sept. 19, 2015 at Bank of America Theatre in Chicago, IL, also stars Broadway veterans Kristen Beth Williams as Monty’s coquettish girlfriend Sibella Hallward, who refuses to marry him because he’s penniless; Adrienne Eller as Henry D’Ysquith’s sister Phoebe, whom Monty meets when a mysterious elderly woman named Miss Marietta Shingle (Mary VanArsdel) informs him after his mother’s funeral that his mother was a disinherited aristocrat masquerading as a washerwoman; Christopher Behmke as Mr. Gorby, a Magistrate, and an Actor; Matt Leisy as Tom Copley, a Newsboy, and an Actor; Megan Loomis as a Tour Guide and a Newsboy; Lesley McKinnell as Miss Barley; Kristen Mengelkoch as Lady Eugenia and a Newsboy; Ben Roseberry as Chief Inspector Pinckney, a Newsboy, and an Actor.

“I play all eight rungs of the ladder that Monty Navarro has to climb [to seize the D’Ysquith family fortune and its hereditary title],” says John Rapson. “All but one of them are very despicable people….”

Rapson says the challenges of playing eight separate characters is how to differentiate them and change from character to character to character on the fly. “As soon as one goes down, another one comes up,” he says, adding, “I’ll be offstage for 15 seconds and then I’ll come back on as a completely different person, sometimes of a different gender, sometimes of a different age…. The greatest challenge is to turn around and hit the stage as somebody completely new and make a vivid impression immediately, so that the audience can enjoy the new character that they’re seeing.”

For DPAC patrons keeping score, John Rapson happily provides a brief rundown of the dramatis personae whom he singlehandedly portrays; but, he stresses, he is not listing them in order of appearance (or demise):

“The earl, Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith, is kind of the villain of the piece and represents classism and a complete disregard for the poor and anyone that he considers beneath his family.”

“The Rev. Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith is a country parson…. He’s a little too fond of the communion wine.”

Lord Asquith D’Ysquith, Sr. is the owner of a bank and a very decent, lovely man.”

Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr. is a smarmy lothario.”

Henry D’Ysquith is a country squire. He’s a landowner with a bit of a secret that I’m not going to give away, because it’s kind of fun!”

Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith” is an irrepressible battleship of a woman who is looking for a charitable cause that she can make her own.

Major Lord Bartholomew D’Ysquith is a fitness freak.”

Lady Salomé D’Ysquith Pumphrey is the worst kind of over-indulgent actress.”

John Rapson plays Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith and seven of her closest relatives (photo by Joan Marcus)

John Rapson plays Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith and seven other D’Ysquiths (photo by Joan Marcus)

“It’s a challenge,” says John Rapson, “to keep all of these people fresh and exciting. It’s a physically exhausting show, but it’s even more exhilarating than it is exhausting.”

Seguing from role to role to role has transformed the 28-year-old University of Michigan graduate into a quick-change artist. “My costumes are magically designed to be put on and taken off quickly,” says Rapson. “We travel with a dresser. My dresser Nadine is, in so many ways, 50 percent of my show, because so much of the magic of changing from character to character happens in those fast changes…. The quickest one is 16 seconds, and none of them are too much longer than that”

Born and raised in abject poverty in the southwest London district of Clapham, where his mother washed other peoples’ clothes to put food on their table, Monty Navarro goes money-mad when he finds out that he’s ninth in line for the D’Ysquith millions and the earldom of Highhurst. “So, he sets out,” John Rapson says, “to remove the eight relatives who are in his way of inheriting this title and fortune… The show is about all of the hilarious ways in which he does that….

John Rapson (center) also plays as Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith and seven other D'Ysquiths (photo by Joan Marcus)

John Rapson (center) also plays as Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith and seven other D’Ysquiths (photo by Joan Marcus)

“The women in Monty’s life are also a big part of the show …,” says Rapson. “Sibella Hallward has been Monty’s best friend from childhood, but is also his mistress; and Phoebe D’Ysquith is a distant cousin with whom he also becomes romantically entwined.”

John Rapson adds, “We have a fantastic ensemble…. [A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder] is an absolute laugh-out-loud riot the whole time, and it’s the deserving winner of the 2014 Tony for Best Musical. It has a fantastic, mischievous sense of humor; and it’s just a big, fun musical-comedy experience…. It’s an absolutely raucous good time in the theater….”

SECOND OPINION: Oct. 8th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: (Note: You must subscribe to read this article).

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER at 8 p.m. Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14 and 15, 8 p.m. Oct. 16, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 17, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, NC 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $35-$150. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.


DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787),, or

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587,, or

SHOW: and










A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (2013 San Diego and 2013 Broadway musical): (official website), (Internet Broadway Database), (Facebook page), (Twitter page), and (Wikipedia).

Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics): (Internet Broadway Database).

Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics): (official website), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

John Rapson (actor who plays eight members of the D’Ysquith Family): (Internet Broadway Database), (Facebook page), and (Twitter page).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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