REVIEW: IT HAPPENED IN KEY WEST (Charing Cross Theatre) ★★★

It Happened in Key West tells the story of a man who has spent his life searching for love, only to find it in Elena, who happens to be married and terminally ill. It certainly is a love story, albeit an unusual one. The show opens with the protagonist in a prison cell telling his story through a bit of an underwhelming opening number. It is not until the main character meets the woman he is to fall in love with, Elena, that the pace of the show starts to pick up. From this point, there are noticeably more laughs and better songs.

The talent of the cast is undeniable. Wade McCollum, who plays Carl, has a beautiful voice and portrays his character well. He was able to take a character who could easily have been creepy and unlikable, and make him warm, funny and something verging on charming. Alyssa Martyn, who played Elena, had a beautiful voice but unfortunately her songs weren’t particularly memorable. While there were some lovely songs in this musical, a lot of them were quite average. While I did enjoy some songs within the context of the show, I find myself unable to remember them the day after seeing it.

The set pieces were simple, with this production instead relying on a projection onto the backdrop. Some of the videos and graphics used were beautiful. During one song a number of different images are used in the background, from forests, to beaches then up to the clouds. This was done seamlessly and was definitely highlight of the production for me. The auditorium had been decorated to match the coastal feel of the production which was a nice touch.

While I didn’t find myself laughing hysterically at any point, there were some chuckles to be had during this show. Some jokes did fall flat, but this was more the fault of the script than the actors. The ending certainly pulled on the heartstrings of some of the audience, several of whom left with wiping their mascara off their cheeks. Knowing that this show was based on a true story certainly makes it far more intriguing and poignant.

The Charing Cross Theatre website describes it as ‘Richard Curtis meets Tim Burton’ and I would certainly agree that there were traits of a Richard Curtis rom-com, it was sweet and cheesy, but it didn’t have as many laughs as you would get in a Richard Curtis film. As for Tim Burton, it wasn’t nearly as dark as it needed to be if that was the sort of show that they wanted. Overall, I thought the show was enjoyable but not amazing. If you want to see a new show and you like romantic comedies, then it is worth a look, but with so many shows with limited runs on at the moment, I’m now sure how well this one will fare.

Reviewed by Stephanie Mansell
Photo: Darren Bell


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