Review: Briefs:Close Encounters @ Leicester Square Spiegeltent

Reviewed by Charlotte White

Prepare to board the mothership and lift off as the Briefs boys are back from the future to send us a message we all need to hear…the future is more than bright and everything will be let’s say ‘fluffing’ fine. A night full of talent, laughter and whole lot of bare cheek.

If you’ve never seen Briefs before let me tell you it’s everything you want in a drag boylesque show and more! If you think it’s all strip teases and lip syncing you’d be wrong…these boys have so many other talents! Expect to be shook as they jump and flip across the stage before juggling, hula hooping and demonstrating some serious aerial skills.

The show was lead and directed by the fabulous Shivannah aka Fez Fa’anana and he brought the house down with his incredible sass and wit. He definitely knew how to get the audience going and kept us engaged throughout the performance. Ru Paul eat your heart out.

Some jaw dropping Aerial tricks were done by Captain Kidd and Thomas Worrell who span at dizzying speeds up in the air. Not only that, but Captain Kidd proved his hips don’t lie hula hooping several luminous hoops around his body seemingly effortlessly.

We saw…rather a lot of all the guys, but particularly Louis Biggs. He showed he can juggle an impressive amount of balls (juggling balls!) and without dropping any! Being the youngest, he stood out but also his performance was amazing to watch.

Harry Clayton-Wright performed a hilarious comedic dance duet with Brett Rosengreen who did a fantastic job of lifting Harry (dressed as the female) above his head. The facial expressions and emotion from Harry managed to portray a story in a comedic fashion which got the whole audience laughing and following along with them. Brett also had a solo which delivered a special message as each layer of clothing came off, a very powerful routine.

During the show a certain rabbit by the name of Dale Woodbridge-Brown would pop up and performed his special magic trick of making alarm clocks stop ringing. This develops in to a full out acrobatic dance number which incorporated the alarm clocks and he was definitely getting in to it giving a lively and animated performance with a lot of laughs.

 

 

You could certainly tell the audience were enjoying it and that there were some fans in the audience who were clearly familiar with Briefs. In fact the person I was sat next to explained this was his third visit. In all honesty I can see why it has such a following.

The lighting by Paul Lim and music by Busty Beatz set the tone of the show perfectly and really added to the spectacle of it.

Think Ru Paul meets Cirque du Soleil. Briefs: Close Encounters is a futuristic drag circus extravaganza with something to entertain everyone. If the future really is like this, there’s hope for us yet.

Catch Briefs: Close Encounters now at Leicester Square Spiegeltent until 3rd Jan 2019. Click here for information and tickets

 

4stars

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REVIEW: Hadestown @ National Theatre, Olivier

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

2018 has been the year for musicals based on Greek mythology in London, with Myth at The Other Palace earlier this year, Mythic at the Charing Cross theatre currently, then Orpheus at the Battersea Arts Centre next month, and now Hadestown at the Olivier Theatre.

Currently appearing in London’s National Theatre autumn season before transferring to Broadway, Hadestown is a musical re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a myth that already has a fair share of theatre adaptions, and Hadestown is nothing like those.

Anaïs Mitchell, who penned all book, music and lyrics, provides a lush folk score that 7 on-stage musicians play throughout the show. Mitchell’s lyrics and book, however, are a major weakness to the piece. Both feel repetitive and boring, and would be extremely confusing if you weren’t already familiar with the myth. At times, the book felt like it was trying to drag out the myth to be as long as possible. I can’t even really remember what happened in act one.

The direction by Rachel Chavkin and choreography by David Neumann was inventive, yet minimalist and intricate. In fact, Neumann’s choreography really livened up moments in act one and the opening of act two.

The cast did well with what they had to work with. Reeve Carney as Orpheus was a stand out performance, despite having very little to do within act one. I mean, for a musical about Orpheus, there was a distinct lack of Orpheus. His act one solo, Wait For Me, was a highlight. Eva Noblezada as Eurydice provided gorgeous vocals, and worked well with what seemed to be a very under-developed and flat version of Eurydice.  Amber Gray as Persephone was incredible, with probably the best performance all evening. Her vocals and acting were wonderful, and she really brought some energy to the piece within her numbers Livin’ It Up On Top and Our Lady of the Underground.

I also enjoyed costume and lighting, designed by Michael Krass and Bradley King, respectively. Krass’ costumes were at times beautiful and bright with the character of Persephone, and yet they were simple and effective with Orpheus and Eurydice. King’s lighting was wonderful, once again often simple but helped to show setting and brighten up the mood and atmosphere of the piece.

Despite a boring, dragged out book and confusing and repetitive lyrics, Hadestown boasts a lush score with stellar performances and a gorgeous design.

3-stars

 

 

 

Review: R+J @ Access Theatre, NYC

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

In this modern retelling of a classic story where men are nowhere in sight. There is a museum of sorts that explains why men disappeared. But the focus of this play is on the women, so that’s what I’ll do too. The set of R+J can be described as industrial and hazardous (designed by Marisa Kaugars). Large sheets of metal are the backdrop of the scene and surround the entire performance area. The aggressive set was an accurate location for this retelling, filled with anger and passion, it is hard to imagine this version of R+J in a set any less dynamic. The warlike set is reflected in the conflict ready direction of the play.

R (Charlie Aleman) is charismatic. The show revolves around R, and they provide a strong emotional foundation for a show that at sometimes is frantic. Benvolio (Chelsea Fryer) and Mercutio (Ania Upstill) banter with R with ease, an emotional bond is clear, as the actors move forward with the plot. Perhaps I am placing my ideas of femineity on the actors and seeing traditionally male characters as more emotional because they are being portrayed by female presenting individuals. Each thought and conclusion I made during the show has me second guessing my biases.

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R+J’s costume design (designed by Lux Haac) deepens the dark nature of the play, and the set forces the audience to imagine a different world. The inherit masculinity in the black and camouflage costumes contrasts the femininity exhibited from the actors. Even traditionally female characters, such as J (Briana Sakamoto) are shrouded in black. Although her mesh shirt exuded female energy. On the other hand, the low cost but high intellect of the set creates an entirely masculine world. The Reflective properties of the metal sheets double the cast and the audience- eerily reflecting our confused and shocked expressions back onto ourselves.

My preconceived ideas lessen lust in a gay relationship, I was shocked when I found myself surprised that two female presenting individuals could be as lustful as R and J. My idea of the traditional play, my understanding of lust and sexual desire, had been dictated by societal norms. The kissing scenes and sex scenes in this production felt so strange to me because I hadn’t thought that queer love could descend into the same single-minded lust and passion that I have come to expect in a straight couple. I think subconsciously I had made assumptions, most that non-heteronormative relationships were lustless, or less lustful. I was tested by R + J and found wanting.

Shakespeares’ sex jokes feel weird, female-presenting individuals are talking about how hard their dicks are, and how they want to sleep with different women. The jokes become poignant. A reminder of how ridiculous and segregated our genders are. It seemed bizarre for a woman to make a joke, but it was just funny (to me) in other Romeo and Juliet productions. I think this is one of the many reasons this production is so revolutionary and relevant, it highlights internal sexism and forces me to confront my prejudices. These differences are mirrored in my response to the violence in the show. It feels overly violent, and I wondered while watching, would I have felt that way if it were two male presenting individuals fighting to the death?

It feels strange for J to wait for R to take action. In this retelling, there is no fairer sex, but J still waits. In previous shows I have seen it felt natural, Romeo will go organize the wedding while Juliet waits. But when there are two female presenting individuals, why should one wait for the other to take action? They are equal. I am mortified at myself, and my complacency. The power imbalance between Romeo and Juliet in classic telling’s of the show are increasingly obvious as I watch the classic story unfurl.

At the top of Act II the show began to drag a little. This does happen (in my opinion) in almost all Shakespeare plays, so it wasn’t too outside the ordinary. What was strange and unique to this production was the confusion caused by actors playing multiple roles, sometimes in the same scene. That was truly one of the most confusing aspects of the show.

R crying seems too feminine for the character as portrayed by a female presenting actor, and again this show puts my own notions of gender to shame, as I am faced with my deeply innate response to men crying, which is to perceive them as weak. R is described as “a child and a beast” and this stood out to me. During R + J, I was faced with a lot of confrontational ideas and this line stood out to me as powerful as it was a strong and reasonable way to define a man, but not a woman.

When J is found ‘dead’, there is a single light that follows her. J is found by R, and the long soliloquy begins. I never thought about how truly toxic R’s masculinity is until a gender non-conforming individual portrayed him and he was so clearly made to look ridiculous through his bravado and self-imposed masculinity. R takes the poison and violently throws up. My response to this was that it was accurate yet entirely melodramatic. J’s demise is powerful, touching and modern. The drama feels accurate to the text, and to Shakespeare, but with a female presenting individual in the role, it felt over the top.

I have seen countless retellings of this story, but never before have I been so surprised by my response to this well-known and well-loved story. I was moved, angered, and made to question myself throughout the show. Although confronting this show is worth seeing. It might not be what you want to hear, nobody likes discovering dark and ugly things about themselves. But I feel this show justly deserves a receptive audience.

4stars

 

 

Review: Precious Little Talent, Courtyard Theatre

Reviewed by Charlotte White

Produced by Blue Butterfly Productions and directed by Brock Elwick, Precious Little Talent is a story of belief, family and hope written by Ella Hickson. We start off at Christmas in New York and bright eyed 19 year old Sam spends the night with a 23 year old English girl named Joey. The next day Sam goes to work caring for George and who should be there but Joey. She hasn’t seen her father George in two years and can’t understand why he doesn’t answer a simple question.

As soon as the show starts the audience are addressed when Sam begins to narrate what is happening and what he is thinking during the scene. This was a very interesting use of the technique and I think it worked for the play and gave it more if a unique style.

Sam was played by Henry George Lewis and he truly was a joy to watch. His character was so vibrant, energetic and full of life and his comedy brought a touch of light to the piece which covers an otherwise fairly dark subject matter. He seemed very comfortable and at ease on stage.

The role of Joey was portrayed by Marta Kane and honestly I was moved by her performance. There was a genuine feel about it and she kept you gripped throughout.

The final cast member Mark Keegan was George and he seemed so deep in his character it was quite captivating. He gave a very convincing performance and kept with it throughout the whole show never breaking character, it seemed very believable.

Speaking for people who have some difficulty hearing, linking with our ‘Do we hear the people sing?’ section, occasionally the lighting could have been a bit brighter as some may have to rely on the visual cues/lip reading in order to follow it. At times when it was very dark when there was still dialogue going on which would have made it difficult for people to do this.

Overall the storyline was very touching and very poignant at this time as mental health is a big issue and I think this show encourages people to talk more openly about it. If we don’t, it means people are unaware and so can’t be there for help and support which is why shows like this are so important.

Precious Little Talent is playing at the Courtyard Theatre near Old Street, London until the 28th October. Click here for tickets.

4stars

Review: Pop Punk High @ (Le) Poisson Rouge, NYC

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The show began with a standing crowd and no chairs (except some couches and a reserved section), not what one expects when heading to the theatre. And as the unconventional seats forewarned, Pop Punk High was no ordinary show. The evening I attended began with a band, Dude Ranch, singing and encouraging the audience to shout “DICK”. The band was loud, and I should have paid more attention when the merchandise stands outside the theatre had earplugs for sale. Despite the intense volume, Dude Ranch sufficiently warmed the audience, preparing them for the power of pop-punk music. 

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The show began in earnest with the protagonist, Derek (Ben Lapidus) yelling at his parents (Mclean Peterson and Eric Wiegand), telling them he hates them. Which seemed odd to me, as I have a deep respect and love for my parents. Little was I to know how clever the foreshadowing was in this overtly silly show. The cleverness of this show, as a form of self-deprivation, is unfortunately overshadowed by the loudness of the dated music.

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While describing the evolution of pop-punk, Tib (Amanda Centeno) states that pop-punk was created by “tak(ing) out the nuance, and leav(ing) the power cord”. How accurate she was. Although moving at times, this show pandered to a specific niche music fan. Despite that, the hilarious show remains nostalgic, if sometimes a bit silly. And Tib’s charisma and charm help elevate the show.

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The crux of the story is that Derrick, a loser with a needledick, sprays a magic axe bottle, releasing a dead Avril Lavigne (Kelly Krauter), who offers Derek 3 wishes. The ridiculous wishes come as no surprise, despite its predictability the wishes nicely foreshadow the outcome of the show. The story itself is whimsical, and at some times thin, logic crumbles under narrative pressure.

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The pacing of the show and the quality of the songs were excellent. The songs meaningfully moved the story forward, providing excellent rhythm for the show. The ensemble continuously sang and danced their hearts out. It was the first time I asked myself what the true meaning of punk-pop was. And I’m surprised a show with such an airy story managed to perfectly provide me with a deep existential question. This show climaxes with a giant dick knocking over the antagonist. Despite that, the evening was enjoyable.

Niched, fun and a bit rude, this silly show will fulfil your 2003 self’s dreams. With all the ups and downs of the show, it creates a positive atmosphere for growth and excitement. I felt empowered as the cast took their bows, to be the best version of myself.

3-stars

Pop Punk High is currently playing at (Le) Poisson Rouge until November 1st, tickets can be purchased here

Review: Six @ The Arts Theatre, London

Reviewed by Charlotte White

When I was younger, my little self was absolutely obsessed with the Tudors, to the point where I would practically force people to quiz me on them. Now, the incredibly talented Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have written something that combines my two loves of Musical theatre and the Tudors in the form of Six the Musical! Telling the tale of Henry VIIIs six wives like you’ve never heard it before. If you think you know all there is to know about these amazing women who happened to catch the eye of one particular man, these girls are about to give you a lesson in ‘herstory’.

After a sold out run at the arts theatre earlier this year and taking the Edinburgh fringe by storm this year, Six is back on tour and we managed to catch it on it’s return to the Arts theatre in London. Directed by Jamie Armitage and Lucy Moss, Six is a 75 minute one act pop tudor extravaganza. The premise of the show being the wives are in competition with each other to see who had it worse from their large short tempered husband King Henry. So we here from them all as they tell their own versions of what happened all those years ago, in the stylings of pop icons such as Beyoncé, Adele, Rihanna and more! There’s something to suit every taste.

To start with we have Jarneia Richard-Noel as the first wife, Catherine of Aragon as she impresses the audience with her sassy number and riffs to ‘ruffle your ruffs’.

Millie O’Connell puts her own stamp on Henry’s second wife Anne Boleyn with hilarious one liners (mainly attempting to remind us about the unfortunate loss of her head) and a quirky rock song that is definitely one to make you want to get up and rock along with her.

The third wife, his supposed true love, Jane Seymour is played by Natalie Paris who tugs on your heart strings with an emotional ballad and breath taking vocals.

 

Alexia McIntosh causes a sensation as Anna of Cleves performing a sexy Nicky Minaj style number encouraging the audience to ‘get down’ with the German princess and party Tudor style.

The second of the three Catherines and fifth wife overall is the young, promiscuous Catherine Howard and Aimie Atkinson kicks it up a notch with a killer, upbeat, pop song. Aimie gives an amazing performance and delivers 100% full out on emotion and vocally.

With five down, we come to the final wife, Catherine Parr. Maiya Quansah-Breed is stunning on stage and reminds us there’s is so much more to the story then some people may realise.

The show is so cleverly thought out by co-creators Marlow and Moss and the lighting and choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille and Tim Deiling really help to bring the show together. All of the songs are so catchy and well written you’re bound to want to have the soundtrack on repeat 24/7 after watching. The whole piece is performed with such energy from start to finish and the cast work so well on stage, hitting every move and note to get those beautiful harmonies.

There is No way you’re not going to lose your head over Six. Some might say you would have a heart of stone if you didn’t at least enjoy it a little. So come on and get down like it’s 1499 because after all it’s all you’re gonna want to do after seeing this show, and it definitely is deserving of your love.

5stars

Six runs at the Arts Theatre until the 14th October after which it will tour to Kingston, Southampton, Salford and Glasgow.  For tickets and more information please visit the Six website 

Review: Gypsy @ Theatre Royal, Winchester

Reviewed by Charlotte White

I was pleasantly surprised by RicNic Hampshire’s production of Gypsy. The entire production was put on by 16-21 year olds and I have to say the standard was actually very high! Knowing the general premise of the show, I was intrigued to see how it would be played and they delivered with talent and just a dash of star quality.

Directed by Emily Pacey, Gypsy transports us to 1920s Vaudeville and is the story of Rose who is determined to make her daughters stars! Trying to live vicariously through her children, Rose risks everything to ensure their fame, however it doesn’t quite go to plan.

A few understudies were on, so the leading role of ultimate stage mum Rose was played by Ali Shepherd. It’s quite a mature character to play, but she certainly pulled it off in my books. She performed it with such passion and vocally her numbers were fantastic. I was very captivated by her performance and the emotion she put across.

Jack Shannon who played talent agent Herbie seemed to connect to his character well and to the others on stage. It was a very natural performance and the ease with which he acted from start to finish.

Poppy Hill certainly oozed a certain amount of star quality as both Baby June and Dainty June with her charming smile, impressive voice and high kicks. The part seemed to suit her well and her performance was very enjoyable. The term ‘triple threat’ comes to mind when thinking about her portrayal as she showcased all aspects of her talent.

The role of Louise was taken by Charlotte Teschner and she absolutely shone for the entirety of the performance. The character progressed and developed a lot as the show went on, and she portrayed each change very well. It was almost like seeing a completely new person form. There was a very engaging quality about her and she commanded the stage like a professional.

 

 

One of the comedic highlights of the second act has to be Nathan Deane as stage manager Pastey. Every line was delivered with purpose, the characterisation was spot on and the comedy timing was just right. He seemed to completely transform in to that character and his energy stood out to me multiple times throughout the show. Clara Wessley also got a lot of laughs as Miss Cratchitt, again nailing the comedy aspect and was a very amusing character. Great job by Miss Wessley.

The three burlesque dancers Tessie Tura, Mazeppa and Electra played by Bethany Williams, Becki Holder and Beth-Anne Hollyhurst respectively  added yet more hilarity to the show. They definitely looked liked they had fun with the roles and their number was very enjoyable, their voices went really nicely together.

Overall, I was very impressed with the level of professionalism and energy shown by the whole cast. The costumes and staging of the production was also very impressive. It definitely helped capture the time period. Filled with musical classics and a winning storyline with such a variety of emotions, it was a thoroughly enjoyable show. I would definitely recommend RicNic productions for the future, great showcase of young talent.

 

4stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 ways traveling makes me a better theatregoer

by Annie Zeleznikow

If you follow me on Instagram (which you all should @_anniedaynow_) you might have noticed that I am traveling through Europe. Through numerous train journeys and countless cinema-going experiences outside of the English-speaking world, I feel I have gained new insight into extracting and enjoying the most from my theatre experience. I wanted to share these new insights with you, dear reader. Going to new places and exposing yourself to foreign cultures enriches one’s understanding of themselves, the world, and THEATRE. Travelling is marvelous, as is theatre; and both are deserving of your time and attention.

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  1. Be courteous of others and they will do the same. Show respect to others, and if something goes wrong, you are in it together. You’ll help each other out. if you freak out because you don’t speak German and you’re afraid you’re heading towards Russia, ask for some help from a fellow passenger, usually, they are willing to help a sobbing 20-something-year-old.
  2. Wear what makes you feel comfortable. When traveling, I would mostly wear yoga pants and trainers. And do you know who cared? No one. It was comfortable and able to do the task at hand- fall asleep on public transport. If your nervous about what to wear to a Broadway show, wear whatever makes you comfortable, or whatever feels best for the occasion. I have seen heaps of people rock Potter wear to Cursed Child, and they are all killing it.
  3. If you don’t understand what is going on, just lean into it. Someone will explain it afterward if you remember to ask. Just enjoy what is happening around you right now, everything else will follow.
  4. Take time to close your eyes. Although I loved watching the French countryside roll by, sometimes I need a rest from the overload of stimulus. Often big production shows can be overwhelming, and demand attention from all your sense. I try to close my eyes if the songs are particularly sweet, and I want to focus on the vocals.
  5. Do what makes you happy! All experiences are your own- and this summer I’ve tried to take upon myself only tasks that make me happy. The same goes for theatre! I’ve seen some shows multiple times, and although its costly, and I am not widening my musical repertoire, those shows make me happy. And I get something new and exciting from the same show each time I see it.

In Conversation With: JILL SANTORIELLO (It Happened In Key West)

Jill Santoriello is a writer, composer and lyricist whose newest musical, It Happened In Key West, has recently opened in London at the Charing Cross Theatre. Santoriello also penned the award-winning musical adaptation of Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”. It Happens In Key West tells the story of Carl Tanzler, an eccentric German man living in Key West, Florida, in the thirties, who was found living with the body of Elena Hoyos, his true love but also a young woman who passed away seven years earlier.

Read my five-star review of It Happened In Key West here. 

What interested you about the story of Carl Tanzler and writing a Carl Tanzler musical?

I had never heard of this story until my producer and collaborator, Jeremiah James, pitched me the idea several years ago. It immediately appealed to me in an over-the-top gothic romantic sort of way. Jeremiah was familiar with my work on “A Tale of Two Cities” so I knew he had to be envisioning a musical that was somewhat romantic as well. But he couldn’t have known that I also have a slightly twisted, dark, demented side that was just as drawn to the potential for black comedy as it was drawn to the grand romance. The good news was Jeremiah didn’t want the show to be all one thing or the other either. We shared the view that as romantic and sincere as Carl’s intentions may have been, keeping and preserving a decaying body around the house just had to present certain challenges that were ripe for comedy.

Why did you choose to portray Tanzler as a romantic rather than a psychotic body-snatcher as many have?

Jeremiah, Jason Huza (co-book writer) and I were never interested in doing a dark, grisly horror story. That’s just not how we saw it, though it can be interpreted that way and has been portrayed that way in other versions of the story. But that’s what appealed to us frankly – taking what some people thought they knew – a creepy tale of body-snatching and obsession – and turning it into a silly, absurd, uplifting romance. We made a choice early on to take Carl at his word and tell the story from his point of view. And actually, his accounts were not greatly contradicted by the newspaper and legal accounts of the time, so he seemed to be the most reliable first-hand narrator for the show. And he literally ends his diary with the most optimistic, adoring words of gratitude for having known Elena and having had the honour of taking care of her as long as he did. So, when you read that, it’s kind of hard to not appreciate the romantic side of him and what he did. And it’s impossible to deny that this man truly loved this woman – as they say – to the bitter end.

What were the most challenging parts of the true story to adapt to fit the style of the musical?

Well even though Carl wrote a rather detailed diary account of the events, they didn’t automatically “sing” or lend themselves to being dramatized. In fact, sometimes his notes were a little too scientifically detailed and clinical, so we did take our fair share of dramatic license, inventing some scenes and conflicts as needed. The hardest (and most fun) part of writing a show like this is figuring out what to approach as heartfelt and what to approach tongue-in-cheek through the dark comedy filter.

Whilst researching for the musical, did you meet anyone who was around in Key West when the discovery was made?

It’s funny that you ask that because my collaborators actually met a woman in Key West who was alive at the time that Carl was discovered living with Elena’s body. So this person literally attended Elena’s second wake and viewing in 1940 when she was a little girl. They had a long conversation with this woman, whose mother was best friends with Elena, and the amazing thing was she literally corroborated our “imagined” version of events! In other words, we had written scenes where Elena showed that she really cared for Carl whilst she was alive, loved him and asked him to take care of her body when she passed away – and this woman told us that yes she did. And also that the people of Key West, people who actually knew them, saw the story exactly the way that we saw it – not as something creepy or horrible but as an expression of how much this man loved this woman and the lengths he went to to keep his promise to her. I was particularly touched by the fact that when the song “Undying Love” was played for this lady, she actually broke down weeping because she said it was how they all felt about the story.

Are there any other true crime stories you’d like to adapt to the stage?

Honestly, I never thought of this as much of a crime. I mean, the charges against him were grave robbing and desecration of a tomb. Well, he had paid for Elena’s funeral, paid for and built the mausoleum that she was kept in – all with the consent of her family. And if you happen to believe in an afterlife and spirit communication, which I do, if the dead girl you love comes to you from beyond the grave and asks you to get her out of the cemetery and take her home with you, well what else are you supposed to do? So where’s the crime in that? You can question whether he was delusional to think he’d been visited by a spirit – but no-one who knew him ever doubted he believed that to be the case. So I believe he truly thought he was honouring Elena’s wishes and I can’t fault him for that.

Where would you ideally like to stage It Happened In Key West in the future?

London has been great and it’s my favourite place on the planet so this has been a wonderful experience premiering the show here. And I’m definitely planning on coming back again on coming back again before the end of the run. But I would love to see it done in the U.S as well: in New York (where I live), of course, and especially in Florida and/or Key West. I think the story of undying love and how tough it is to say goodbye is pretty universal so I’m hopeful we’ll eventually find an audience in many places.

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I’d like to really thank Jill Santoriello for agreeing to be interviewed. You can find more information about her as a writer and her shows here. 

It Happens In Key West runs at the Charing Cross Theatre in London until the 18th of August 2018. Tickets and more information can be found here. 

REVIEW: It Happened In Key West @ Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

A classic love story that involves forbidden lovers, tuberculosis, and grave-robbing. Honestly, what’s not to love?

It Happened In Key West tells the very true story of “Count” Carl Tanzler, a German man who lived as a doctor in Key West, Florida in the 1930’s. He had said that when he was a young boy, he dreamed of a girl that would be the woman he marries. He finds that in Key West in the form of Elena Hoyos, but ends up diagnosing her with tuberculosis. She is already married, but he showers her with gifts (and even proposes, to which she declines). When she eventually dies, he builds a mausoleum for her and eventually…steals her body and lives with it. For seven years.

Not traditional musical theatre inspiration, and being familiar with the story before seeing the show means I was extremely intrigued to how they’d pull it off.

Penning the book, music and lyrics, Jill Santoriello does her best to turn the macabre true story into a beautiful romance. The music is lush, with extremely clever lyrics and a book that turns Tanzler into a wisecracking romantic. Santoriello twists some truths of the story to play in favour of romance (I particularly liked the changing of Tanzler dragging Elena’s corpse out of the cemetery in a toy wagon to a variety of different ghosts and spirits marrying them in the graveyard).  In the true court case, Tanzler was medically proven sane. The book does its best to show that he wasn’t crazy, and it worked. There were moments which I found myself tearing up, which was a change from most versions of the story where they try to make Tanzler look like a psycho.

Marc Robin‘s direction and minimal choreography worked for the small stage of the Charing Cross theatre. Wooden crates were moved and stacked to create locations, aided by projections designed by Louise Rhoades-Brown.

Wade McCollum takes on the role of Carl. His comical, yet creepy, performance was perfect. He plays Carl from the moment he first meets Elena up to the day he dies, which McCollum plays wonderfully. In particular, his act one solo “Undying Love” was beautifully done.

Playing Elena Hoyos, both dead and alive, is Alyssa Martin. The innocence of Elena was shown perfectly in both acts, firstly accepting Carl to try and “cure her tuberculosis” (there was no cure for TB at the time), and in act two as a dead woman, singing beautifully “I Feel Loved”.

It Happened In Key West is definitely a musical to suit all tastes, from the classic musical theatre vibe of the score to the macabre but comic book. It’ll be hard to find a better new musical comedy this year.

5stars

IT HAPPENED IN KEY WEST runs at the Charing Cross Theatre until 18th August. Tickets and more information here.