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'How To Succeed' Certainly Does New Musical Debuts at Ahmanson

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 28/03/2016 Charles Karel Bouley

2016-03-28-1459130410-3314139-image.jpeg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-28-1459130410-3314139-image.jpeg An exhaustingly funny number with Williams, Massey and Keller
"I really don't know what to expect, and it's been a long time since I've seen a new play all together, not just a new production of an older one..." I told my friend Daniel Charleston as we made our way to the Red Carpet of the Ahmanson Theatre's / Center Theatre Group's premiere of A Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder now through May 1st. "I'm not sure what to expect," I finished.
"Uproarious!" The voice of a passerby is heard, obviously overhearing my question.
Yes, that's a lovely sound byte or pull quote for an ad, but, really?
Well, yes, really. After the 2h20m production literally whizzed by I can actually say there was, indeed, an uproar in the theatre several times, one that I was willingly and gladly a part of as this fabulous farce unfolded.
The play is part Gilbert and Sullivan, a little Sondheim, and while the term tour-de-force is often way overused this play lets all of the principals shine in numbers where real singers get to sing with nuance and inflection instead of a more constant screaming on key that some musicals today have become.
Not to say it's perfect. It is a little long, and there's at least two numbers, while festive and fabulous, that we could live without; including the ditty "It's Better With A Man." As a gay man I just didn't need it, as funny as it was. It didn't really progress the plot that much and we already knew the character was quite gay.
2016-03-28-1459130597-7229766-image.jpeg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-28-1459130597-7229766-image.jpeg Rapson in one of his many uproarious roles
And what a plot. Kevin Massey is Monty Navarro, who, upon his mother's death, finds out he is in line to be the Earl of D'Ysquith, eight in line. Should something happen to those seven, then this poor man raised in poverty by a disinherited mother will be set. He loves Sibella, Kristin Beth Williams, who really loves herself. She is a showstopper almost every time she appears. But it's John Rapson that is the hardest working and often most hysterical as he takes on nine roles, including several women. From "I Don't Understand The Poor" which could easily be played at a Trump rally these days to "Looking Down The Barrel of A Gun," Rapson is one of the real power sources of this production. Adrienne Keller rounds out the production as the woman Massey, well, one of, well, oh, you're just going to have to see it. Will he, won't he, will she, won't she, did he, didn't he...all of it happens often in just one song while the chorus often breaks the third wall and characters begin dropping like flies. Who lives? Does he become the Earl or end up in the Gallows?
Books and Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and Music and Lyrics by Steven Ludvak answer all the questions in a tidy little bow. Peggy Hickey had her hands full choreographing this fast moving slapstick and director Darko Tresnjak has crafted a play that feels like something out of 1920s Victorian England but rings true with gusto in 2016 downtown Los Angeles.
The musical won the Tony in 2014 for Best Musical and it's easy to see why. This is one that will tour and then exist in revival for decades to come. It will become a new musical staple.
Tickets are $25 through $130 and dates have been added. There's also discounts available through the theatre as well as services like Goldstar and Groupon. It's worth every penny and since the Ahmanson only holds 2000 people there's no bad seat in the house.
To hear this or other interviews get the FREE Karel Cast App, subscribe in Spreaker to the Podcast or simply go to the most incredible website on all the planet, save this one, ReallyKarel

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