Guest column: Students learn insider art of 'Love & Murder'

In this exclusive video interview, John Rapson and Kevin Massey tell DCPA NewsCenter viewers about ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.’

A Gentleman's Guide Student  Master Class‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder’ choreographer Peggy Hickey (front row middle) led a Master Class in a DCPA Eduction studio for students who had attended the touring production. Photo by Jessica Austgen for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Editor’s note: DCPA Education student Nik Velimirovic was part of a group of theatre students who recently attended the touring Broadway production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, a specialized talkback with the cast, followed by a master class with show choreographer Peggy Hickey. We asked him to share his thoughts about the overall experience.

By Nik Velimirovic
For the DCPA NewsCenter

Being involved with DCPA Education for years now, I always get especially excited when we get to do fun activities. Working on the upcoming Teen Company production of Songs and Scenes of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, I’ve acquainted myself with the show. Our cast was invited last week to see the national touring production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder at the Buell, attend a talkback with the cast, and then participate in a master class with the show’s choreographer, Peggy Hickey. Naturally, I was beyond excited.

A Gentleman's Guide quote. Musicals tend to ebb and flow stylistically and lyrically. Take Les Miserables, which jumps from the brooding “I Dreamed a Dream” to the sharp and staccato “Lovely Ladies.” Even the recent hit Broadway comedy Something Rotten! takes an emotional dip with the reprise of “God, I Hate Shakespeare” fresh from the exciting song prior. A musical might slow down or stop abruptly for a dance break. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, the story of an outcast who charmingly kills off an entire bloodline on his way to a huge inheritance, doesn’t do that. It’s a show about timing that plays like a clock – never stopping and never slowing down.

I remember a moment in Act 1, shortly after Monty (Kevin Massey) offs his playboy cousin, when he tosses his scarf behind a closing curtain without missing a beat. I turned to my friend and we both mouthed “Oh my God.” And we didn’t stop with the “ooos” and “ahhhs” until long after the curtain closed. Every aspect of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder feels like a well-oiled machine from ensemble entrances to physical gags to the choreography of “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying?”

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder feels like the cast of The Iceman Cometh walked into an Agatha Christie mystery, through the set of Hitchcock’s 39 Steps, grabbed some irony from Voltaire, and managed to top it all off with a healthy dose of self-aware humor.

And John Rapson. Oh, John Rapson, who plays every member of the dying D’Ysquith Family. He is “a host unto himself.” His performance is just fresh enough to distinguish itself from Jefferson Mays’ Tony Award-nominated D’Ysquiths. His characters run from stage left to stage right before running back stage left to die, heading to a quick-change stage right, and re-emerging as someone else stage left.

Rapson epitomizes comedy theatre, flying between entirely different personas in heartbeats. Each character is unique, and Rapson plays them all differently, showing off a level of creativity that only a real master actor could. I’ve been to big band concerts and I’ve been to packed theatre productions and big-ticket film festivals, but I’ve never heard an audience erupt with such applause as the audience did for Rapson. Honestly, this was probably the best of all the touring shows I’ve ever seen. My friend and I were blown away. Speechless, I believe, is the common hyperbole when you see something incredible. It’s not a hyperbole in this case, as my friend and I were both, literally, speechless after the show ended. Since I saw the show last week, I have consistently, if not dogmatically, stuffed praise for the show down the throats of all of my friends.

I think there’s a defined line between good theatre and fun theatre. Most productions of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus are naturally good theatre – the source text lends itself to this. Most productions of Titus Andronicus are rarely fun theatre. The suicide drama  ‘Night Mother, as a piece, is very good, but by no means fun. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder manages to firmly plant one foot on either side of the line, and that’s one  reason I love it so very much. I probably also love it because of how awesome the cast is.

Peggy Hickey of 'A Gentleman's Guide.' I thought the talkback was going to be an ordinary talkback: A few broad questions, a few broad answers, a second round of applause, a thank you and a goodbye. But the talkback with the cast of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder was genuine and substantive. Everyone in the cast seemed genuinely excited and passionate about talking to us young musical theatre people. There were no politically correct answers.  They offered sage advice and cracked jokes. Some of the advice they gave was so straightforward, it resonated especially well. One example came from Massey, who simply said, “Take care of your body, drink lots of water and hot liquids.” I don’t know why but this really spoke to me, and I have found myself in the week since the show, drinking more water than I probably have in the past month.

As we were saying goodbye to the cast, ensemble member Lesley McKinnell asked us when our production of Songs and Scenes of A Gentleman’s Guide will be. When we told her it will be on March 12, two weeks after the tour leaves Denver, she seemed legitimately sad that she can’t be here to see it. We were thankful to Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski of DCPA Education for making the talkback happen.

We then had the extraordinary opportunity to attend a master class with choreographer Peggy Hickey (pictured above right), and that might have been the highlight of our entire A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder experience. It was truly inspirational, not to mention incredibly educational. I am not much of a dancer. Actually, I don’t dance at all. But after working with Peggy, all of a sudden, I want to. She was very straightforward with her direction, and she made plain the motivation and reasoning for every action on stage, right from the get-go.

It was especially awesome to be taught part of the final dance audition combo for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. Then we had a nice, long Q&A with Peggy, who said nothing but inspirational words to us. In the end, we were all reinvigorated in our passion for theatre and for those of us who are planning to pursue it as a career, we left excited and inspired.

About our Guest Columnist
Nik Velimirovic is a young actor born and raised in Denver who goes to Denver School of the Arts. Last week, he appeared in DCPA Education’s High School Playwriting Competition held at the Colorado New Play Summit, playing Rowe in Sonder. He’s also a filmmaker who will be debuting his latest short film man prepares and eats frozen lasagna at film festivals in the next year. He enjoys making movies about Macbeth and lasagna. The D’Ysquith Family is his dream role.

Editor’s Note: The DCPA NewsCenter offers a regular guest column from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and topic to

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Photo by Jessica Austgen for the DCPA NewsCenter.

A Gentleman’ Guide to Love & Murder: Ticket information

  • Feb. 16-28 at the Buell Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org.
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – – is the only authorized online ticket provider for ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.’

    Our previous NewsCenter coverage of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder:
    A Gentleman’s Guide
    : Where every murder is a comic gift  
    Video: A Gentleman’s Guide to A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
    Video: Kevin Massey sings the national anthem at Broncos game
    Official show page

    Selected previous Guest Columns:
    Douglas Langworthy: On translating Shakespeare for Oregon Shakes
    Scott Shiller: Making Cents of Arts Funding
    David Nehls: Live theatre returns to Elitch Gardens after 24 years
    Gillian McNally: Colorado’s oldest theatre celebrates Artistic Director Tom McNally
    Margie Lamb on the Henry Awards: Something doesn’t add up
    Bryan VanDriel on Lloyd Norton: A name that will live on in Greeley
    Jessica Jackson on Creede Repertory Theatre’s 50th anniversary season
    Susan Lyles on 10 years of staging plays for women in Denver

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