Charing Cross Theatre, London – until 4 March 2017
What happens when “Death” actually takes a holiday? Well apparently nothing, no fatalities are reported in Europe over a weekend, whilst “he” spends a weekend at leisure. Of course there is always a price to pay, but which member of the family and extended gathering, will be taken when “Death” returns to his grim reaping?
Classed as a “chamber musical” (definition: music suited for performance in a room or a small concert hall, especially for two or more, but usually fewer than ten, solo instruments) this sweet production is testament to the fact simplicity can be beautiful. Based on a 1928 Italian play of the same name this story inspired the film ‘Meet Joe Black’.
With the book written by Thomas Meehan and Peter Stone, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston this musical soars and shines giving the cast some truly stunning opportunities to use their immense vocal talents. Zoë Doano (Grazia Lamberti) gives a pitch perfect performance, whilst everyone in the audience fell for the deadly charismatic talent of Chris Peluso as leading man Death/Prince Sirki (Until 11 February; James Gant joins on 13 February).
There are some really strong performances by others, notably Gay Soper as the Contessa Evangelina Di San Danielli. Soper could easily give Dame Maggie Smith a run for her money in the delivery of one line clipped matriarchal comments. Which on more than one occasion made the audience chuckle. Playing opposite her was Anthony Cable as Baron Dario Albione both demonstrated what years of experience and acting can really add to a period piece such as this. The masterful direction of Thom Southerland is abundantly evident in this production.
Amongst the musical numbers the stand out ones for me were Life’s A Joy, Alone Here With you, I Thought That I could Live and December time. The lyrics being particularly clever and sometimes witty were enjoyable, outstandingly complimented by the small orchestra under the musical direction of Dean Austin. Beautifully elegant choreography (Sam Spencer-Lane) completes this ravishing piece. I’d have liked a little more depth in a couple of areas but then after the recent sumptuous productions at the Charing Cross Theatre perhaps on this occasion less is more.
In the present complicated harsh world it’s a delight to be reminded that indeed “Life is A Joy” and to be cherished.