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It Happened in Key West

  • Theatre, Musicals
  • 2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Harrowingly weird 'romantic comedy' about real-life necrophiliac Count Carl von Cosel

What happened in Key West? Well, in the 1930s, a shipwrecked German scientist masquerading as a doctor – Carl Tanzler, aka Count Carl von Cosel – fell in love with a young, married, and apparently not all that interested woman dying of tuberculosis, and did everything in his power to save her. He couldn’t and she died, but old Carl didn’t let that stop him. He dug her up, married her corpse, and lived happily ever after with her decomposing remains. Nawww.

He was, in other words, a complete fucking lunatic. Ross from ‘Friends’ and then some. And he’s also the real-life subject of Jill Santoriello, Jason Huza and Jeremiah James’s new musical, which tracks Carl and Elena’s unconventional relationship from doctor and patient, to mourner and stiff, to husband and wife. It’s ‘50 First Dates’ crossed with ‘Corpse Bride’.

It’s actually pretty straightforward as musicals go. There’s some reasonably catchy tunes, some jazzy showstoppers, some slow romantic numbers. There’s a capable ensemble, led by Wade McCollum as the upright, awkward Count Carl and Alyssa Martyn as the willowy, wasting-away Elena. Marc Robin’s direction is lively enough, and Jamie Roderick’s simple, packing case set is nicely backdropped by projections throughout.

But there’s something seriously amiss here. Are we actually being asked to sympathise with this weird German necrophiliac? Are we supposed to take this story of a deluded bloke who relentlessly chased after a younger woman, broke up her marriage, posed as a doctor but failed to cure her, then dug up her rotting body and put a ring on it as some sort of warm, romantic fable?

Apparently we are, and without a trace of irony too. I think we all know that bodysnatching your crush’s corpse isn’t really on, but neither, I hasten to add, is hopelessly mooning after the girl you think is THE ONE, even after she’s told you she’s not interested. And suggesting that it is ain’t either. A strange new musical, that leaves a sincerely strange taste.

Written by
Fergus Morgan


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