Death Takes a Holiday at Charing Cross TheatreCultureTheatre
Maury Yeston’s Off-Broadway hit has finally jumped the Atlantic and landed in all its splendour at Charing Cross Theatre, London. Death Takes a Holiday is a hauntingly beautiful adaptation of Casella’s 1920s play of the same name, La Morte In Vacanza.
The show’s dramatic beginning, with the angelic Grazia (Zoë Doano) being flung from a car and surviving unscathed, alerts us to the fact that all is not what it seems. Cue the unveiling of Death (Chris Peluso), with a voice as cutting as his jawline, and his melodies as bright as his eyes, who, being taken aback by the damsel’s beauty, spares her life. But if only he were that easy to cheat. Death, who is reminiscent of a Grecian Hades, wants what is owed to him so he decides to take a weekend off: a holiday, with the family of Duke Vittoria Lamberti (Mark Inscoe), to learn what love is and why all humans fear his presence. The musical then diverges into a brief comedic interlude: Death takes on the disguise of Russian Prince Nikolai Sirki, and proceeds to unwillingly seduce every eligible female in the house, all the while claiming not to understand what love is, until he unknowingly succeeds in falling in love.
Death has an undeniable power to hold us in fear and has always been a gripping theme in theatre. Yeston brilliantly amalgamates this morbid subject with his soaring melodies to offer the catharsis theatre-goers need – like the hand of Death himself lifting them free and offering them an alternative, that “Love truly is stronger”. The power of the piece itself comes from love’s great paradox: it brings the mortal a feeling of immortality, but one they must give their life for. And even Death (the character) cannot escape this feeling; in a moment of anguish he shrugs off hubris and declares: “God take me now instead”, to which later is commented, “Now you know human feelings”, and he proceeds to carry Grazia off as if she were Persephone destined for the underworld. With every adage and pun imaginable – “I love you more than life itself” – this musical masterpiece personifies what it is to be human, and the audience learns what they came for all along: that to truly conquer death is just to accept it.
The show has all the hallmarks of success and is a testament to the creative process of all those involved. With unmatched direction by Thom Southerland; an intricate and immersive set design by Morgan Large; mesmerising performances by James Gant, Chris Peluso, Mark Inscoe, Anthony Cable, and Zoë Doano; an uplifting score orchestrated by Larry Hochman backed by a hilariously funny script; dazzling costumes and thrilling choreography, Death Takes a Holiday is an astonishing achievement and a musical experience everyone should have.
Photo: Scott Rylander
Death Takes a Holiday is at Charing Cross Theatre from 16th January until 4th March 2017. Book your tickets here.