DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, 3Star***, London, To 04 03

Book by Thomas Meehan & Peter Stone
Music & Lyrics by Maury Yeaston
Based on the play by Alberto Cassella

Charing Cross Theatre, The Arches, Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NL to 4 March, 2017.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm. Mat Wed 2.30pm Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 20 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 08444 930650
Review: William Russell 23 January.

A chamber musical with charm
The problem with musicals is almost always the book and this tuneful, but not memorably so, show by Maury Yeaston is a case in point. It gets the Thomas Southerland treatment at the Charing Cross theatre, which is to say it is slickly staged and people keep moving things around. No trademark step ladders this time but an awful lot of chairs get shifted.

If it had to be done this is about as well as it could be done, Southerland, who had a hit with Yeaston’s Titanic, has assembled a strong cast to sing the composer’s usual mix of chorales, ballads, recitatives and the odd point number. It is all very pleasing to the ear.

The play by Alberto Cassella on which it is based is one of those once fashionable post First World War tales in which someone mysterious and uninvited descends on a household of well to do folk, truths get told, and things are never the same again. In this case it is a family of Italian aristocrats returning from a trip to Venice by car which is being driven much too fast by stuffy Corrado, the fiancé of the daughter of the house, nineteen year old or thereabouts Grazia, a free spirit who insists on standing up so that the wind may blow her hair.

There is an accident, Grazia, tossed out on to the road is unscathed. When they get home later that evening her father, Duke Vitorio, discovers a handsome young man in the garden who announces he is Death and has come to spend the weekend. During his holiday he will be known as Prince Nikolai Sirki from Minsk. It seems Death, having looked at Grazia, has decided he would like to get to know her better and not to take here there and then. And so on . . .

The gorgeous Zoe Doano sings delightfully as Grazia and gets several pretty dresses to wear, while Chris Peluso, in the role until 11 February, is even prettier – his pale pink lip gloss is, however, a mistake – and also sings very well indeed. There is a lovely old pro double act from Gay Soper and Antony Cable as two ancient lovers who have never wed and get a sweet little ballad in Act Two, December Time, while Mark Inscoe and Kathryn Akin make a handsome Duke and Duchess and deliver their ballads with power.

The set is handsome, if a little grimly gray, the rather large orchestra is on top form and there are Yeaston’s tunes.

But oddly for a first night the applause throughout was polite – nobody stopped the show – and there was no standing ovation at the final curtain. Death Takes a Holiday is a pleasant small scale musical with nothing of interest to say about life, death, love or anything else which, while it passes the time harmlessly, is instantly forgettable.

Grazia Lamberti: Zoe Doano.
Death/Prince Nikolai Sirki: Chris Pelusi (until 11 Feb) James Gant thereafter.
Corrado Danielli: Ashley Stillburn.
Duchess Stephanie Lamberti: Kathryn Akin.
Duke Vittorio Lamberti: Mark Inscoe.
Daisy Fenton: Scarlett Courtney.
Lorenzo: Matthew McDonald.
Alice Lamberti: Helen Turner.
Fidele: James Gant (until 11 Feb) Ken Christiansen thereafter.
Sophia: Sophie May Feek.
Cora: Trudi Camilleri.
Baron Dario Albione: Anthony Cable.
Contessa Evangelina di San Danielli: Gay Soper.
Major Eric Fenton: Samuel Thomas.

Director: Thomas Southerland.
Set Designer: Morgan Large.
Costume Designer: Jonathan Lipman.
Lighting Designer: Matt Daw.
Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson
Orchestrator: Larry Hochman.
Musical Director: Dean Austin.
Choreographer: Sam Spencer Lane.

2017-01-25 17:06:32

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