Charing Cross Theatre, London – until 8 August 2018
Guest reviewer: Nicola Louise
Sometimes you walk into a show and you know exactly what to expect and sometimes you don’t have a clue… It Happened in Key West was the latter for me.
Based on a true story, it follows the story of Count Carl von Cosel (Wade McCollum), a scientist from Germany who washes up on a beach in Key West, Florida and finds him self-working as a radiologist in the local hospital, there he finds his true love, Elena (Alyssa Martyn), who’s suffering from tuberculosis.
When you walk into the theatre you’re greeted with a character on stage playing the guitar; the sea projected on the wall behind him and the sounds of waves and seagulls can be heard. This sets the scene and creates an air of excitement and intrigue for what’s to come.
Reading the beginning synopsis of this musical, you’d expect a love story. However, when Elena dies that’s where this show starts to get a bit… different. Von Cosel, a real-life character, dug Elena’s body up and lived with it for seven years and this show follows that story from beginning to end.
McCollum works well with what he was given. He portrays the friendliness, the longing and the hurt of his character yet he is still funny, and Martyn is great as the innocent young Elena.
You could tell throughout that writer, Jill Santorillo, wanted to add comedy to an otherwise dark story and she does so with brilliant effect. The show is genuinely funny, however there’s a song called ‘At the End of the World’ which I found unnecessary; I didn’t feel like it added anything to the story and I felt myself cringing at the whole performance.
Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this musical. I’ve never walked out a show wondering what had just happened but I did with this. Despite being a wacky story, I’m not sure it’s a musical that needed to be made and although the actors were 5* the musical was not.
If you’re in the Charing Cross area, want a bit of a laugh and want to see a wild story on stage, I would suggest It Happened in Key West, however, I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.
It Happened in Key West is currently playing at the Charing Cross Theatre until 18th August.
photo credit: Darren Bell