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Phil Willmott

Review: IT HAPPENED IN KEY WEST at the Charing Cross Theatre

It Happened in Key West Coming hot on the heels of KNIGHTS OF THE ROSE, the rock, juke box show about medieval romance at the Arts Theatre, comes another audaciously unconventional new musical, IT HAPPENED IN KEY WEST, which has just opened at the Charing Cross Theatre.

The venue has never looked lovelier, decked out in lights and bayside props it's a gorgeous space to walk into with the sun setting on a beautiful projected ocean. And the show itself? Er...

Apparently based on true events it's the tale of a German odd-ball who washes up in Key West in the middle of the last century, gets a job in the local hospital and meets the girl of his dreams. Alas she dies of tuberculosis. So he digs her up and shares a beach shack with her corpse whilst he tries to reanimate her. The townsfolk end up being quite supportive and he becomes something of a tourist attraction before a judge gets involved and enforces a re-burial.

The first thing to note is that leading man Wade McCollum, imported from New York, succeeds in transcending the material, often for whole moments at a time, to make you occasionally care about this nonsense during his solo ballades. This is an extraordinary achievement considering the material he has to work with. I'd like to see him in something better.

The score is inoffensive although mystifyingly composer Jill Santoriello has opted to write the majority of the songs in the same tempo and it's usually hard to pin-point exactly when and where in the universe we are, based on the style of the music. It's instantly forgettable but pleasingly, rum-tee-tum and passes pleasantly enough. Happily there's plenty of witty lyrics about our hero's capers with his cadaver.

A busy ensemble rush around playing the townsfolk and creating the various locations by shifting blocks in front of the projection screen (which presumably cost most of the budget because the costumes remain the same, even as the years pass) Alexander Barria is in typically fine voice and contributes some nicely defined cameos and Alyssa Martyn sings with all the sweetness and gusto you could wish from a dead lover.

One of the Holly Grails of theatre production is to create something so bad that it becomes a campy cult hit. IT HAPPENED IN KEY WEST doesn't quite reach those heights but has a damn good try.

Never the less I don't expect to see a better necrophiliac related musical in my lifetime and the theatre can quote me.

It Happened In Key West