I honestly had no idea what was install before going to Charing Cross Theatre to see haunting but thrilling new musical, “It Happened in Key West”, based on a real-life story of a German necrophiliac called Count Carl von Cosel (Carl), living in Key West in America in the 1930’s who took home the dead body of his love to keep their relationship going rather than let her rest in her grave.
The show was created by award-winning composer Jill Santoriello, with additional lyrics and a book by Jason Huza and Jeremiah James and the American creative team brought this musical production to the UK for its world premiere after an initial workshop run in America.
We are introduced to the extremely eccentric, Carl, who works as an x-ray technician at a hospital. When asked to take a look at a new patient with tuberculosis, it becomes love at first site for him, and he begins to share with the audience his passion for Elena – who happens to be married – through song. Elena and her husband believe Carl to be a doctor and he devotes himself to treating his new-found love, determined to cure her using his own scientific methods whilst making her his own. Tragedy strikes and Carls romance with Elena takes on a new, harrowing, form.
The musical plays out as a romantic comedy, which is still now hard to get my head around given the gruesome story, and yet still the audience remains captivated and in the second act we become fond of Carl and almost wish him a positive outcome. Once Carl’s dark secret is eventually discovered, a court case ensues and yet Carl manages to win over some of the townsfolk and the pity of the judge.
The cast did the story justice. Starring roles were Wade McCollum stars as Carl, opposite Alyssa Martin as Elena. The rest of the cast included Alexander Barria, Andrea Golinucci, Guido Garcia Lueches, Miguel Angel, Mary-Jean Caldwell, Siwan Henderson, Sophia Lewis, Hannah McIver, Ross McLaren, Johan Munir and Nuno Queimado. At the end of the show, the audience showed its appreciation, with about two-thirds stood up for an ovation. I have to say, whilst confused as to why this story was brought to the stage as a musical comedy, it was highly entertaining to watch.
I would recommend this musical to those interested in the weird, macabre combined with new musical comedy theatre, or history repurposed for the stage. Whilst you may find mixed reviews on this show – as always, I say – don’t go for what pretentious critics have to say, go by the audience reaction to the show (see audience reaction video below), and this one is certainly one show you will never forget. I’m sure I’ll be talking about this one in years to come in the pubs.
- Charring Cross Theatre, 4 July – 18 Aug 2018
- Company: The Creatives
- Music Book and Lyrics: Jill Santoriello
- Book and Additional Lyrics: Jason Huza
- Book and Original Concept: Jeremiah James
- Director and Choreographer: Marc Robin
- Musical Director: Andrew Hopkins
- Producer: Jeremiah James
- Booking Link: http://charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/it-happened-in-key-west
- Running time: 2 hrs 20 mins (including one 15 min interval)
Macabre but thrilling!