Tickets and more information: http://charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/it-happened-in-key-west
Running until: 18th August 2018
Production Photos by: Darren Bell.
Based on a true story, It Happened In Key West follows Count Carl Von Gosel who ends up in Key West after being shipwrecked. Once he arrives on the island, he gets a job as an x-ray technician in a local hospital. He, then meets Elena who discovers she has a fatal case of tuberculosis. Carl falls in love with her and believes she is the woman he is destined to meet and tries to save her from her death in any way possible, after her husband leaves her. From the premise, the show sounds like something out of a romance novel but by the end, feels like you’ve watched a Grimm fairy-tale come to life.
As soon as you walk in the auditorium, the impeccable production design instantly creates an imaginary sunny Key West, Florida surrounding the audience. The beautiful and brilliant video design by Louise Rhoades-Brown paired with Andrew Johnson’s atmospheric sound design only further enhanced the production design by Jamie Roderick, from portraying a stunning summer sunset to a frightening shipwreck in the, somewhat, small auditorium. The music and lyrics by Jill Santoriello highlighted the actors’ strengths from Wade McCollum’s strong vocals to Alyssa Martin’s beautiful soprano while reminisicent of the old school musicals yet keeping a fun tone to fit in with today’s pop inspired musicals.
The cast is a real ensemble piece but is being led by two brilliant leads. Wade McCollum is truly brilliant as Carl, not only delivering a strong vocal performance but capturing the eccentricity and sharp edges Carl possesses and delivering dry side comments with perfect ease. Alyssa Martin is strong and stunning as Elena and transforms into a more dreamlike state in act two which she pulled off very well. Her performance of “My Undying Love” was a particular highlight for me.
But my main problem with the show, was that they were just such a hard couple to root for. And that’s not the cast or creative team’s fault, it’s just the nature of the story. I had to keep reminding myself that the entire plot of the show actually happened in 1930’s Key West. Call me a cynic, but no matter how hard the show tried to push, I just didn’t find the show romantic. Just romanticized. Carl’s love for Elena becomes so obsessive to the point where when she dies (not really a spoiler – she has fatal tuberculosis throughout the show) he literally steals her corpse and takes her home to try and bring her back to life. This is literally taking ownership of a woman with or without consent. He lived with the corpse for SEVEN YEARS before anyone found out. He even dresses her up in a wedding dress. Seriously. She wasn’t even his wife. And it bothered me so much, because the “relationship” was so one sided. She just wanted to get better. Elena at one point calls him Carlos because he reminds her of her dead grandpa. And she rejects his marriage proposal on the hope that her husband might come back.
Overall, at the heart of it, it’s a really great production about one man’s journey that is beautifully presented. But ultimately not a love story worth rooting for. It Happened In Key West is worth the watch but the actual events that take place are so bat-shit that I had to constantly remind myself that this actually happened.
Until next time,