It Happened in Key West - A totally armless musical

☆☆☆★★ It Happened in Key West
As I sat down at the beginning of It Happened in Key West, I was impressed with the delightful setting created at the Charing Cross Theatre – beautiful lights strung from the arch of the ceiling, original projection, a guitarist on stage and fishing village paraphernalia strewn around. My thoughts were interrupted by an amiable American lady, who, as she sat down a few seats along, informed me apologetically she would need to get out at 8 o’clock to take an urgent telephone call from Los Angeles. This duly happened and she didn’t return until after the interval. And to be quite honest, she didn’t miss much! 

Three days after seeing this show, I am still bothered and bewildered, but sadly not bewitched by this extraordinary piece of musical theatre! At best, I would say, it is a cult camp classic in the making!

Wade McCollum
My main advice to anyone going to see the show is to remember at all times this is a true story. So here’s the premise of this piece and I quote, ‘It Happened in Key West is the true 1930's story of an x-ray technician who finally meets the girl he has been envisioning and desperately seeking since he was a teen, only to diagnose her with tuberculosis and learn that she is married. What follows are his desperate and unorthodox attempts to save her life at all costs, and the undying love he displays when she succumbs to her illness.’

I am not a believer in plot spoilers but suffice to say, what happens next is macabre, weird, disturbing, verging on necrophilia and decidedly not the stuff of musicals! But wait and, above all remember, it’s all true!

Wade McCollum and Alysa Martyn
So, looking at the positives, and there are several. The ensemble, led by Wade McCollum as the crazy ‘doctor’ Carl, is exceptional and manages the material with great aplomb and a compelling face considering the sheer campiness of some of the lines he is given to sing and speak.  Alysa Martyn as Carl’s love obsession, Elena, has a dazzling voice and sings like a bird - whether dead or alive. Credit must also be given to Jeremiah James, who is attributed with the book and original concept for the piece – and boy, this is one very original concept. Jill Santoriello’s music and lyrics are jolly and definitely have a Lloyd-Webber-esque feel. Marc Robins, director and choreographer, manages the entire ensemble well on the small stage and clearly has great respect for the piece, although I did find it farcical when Elena’s arm fell off her dead body while out for a walk in the Key West sunshine. But hey, just let’s keep remembering it’s all true!

Lifting another line from the corporate website, it says Key West is, ‘funny, surprising, sentimental, and heart-warming - this is like no musical you have ever seen!’ and to be ruthlessly honest, sadly wouldn’t want to see again.
It Happened in Key West is currently playing at the Charing Cross Theatre