It Happened in Key West – Review


It Happened in Key West: Charing Cross Theatre, London.

Reviewed 14th August 2018.


Certainly an odd concept for a musical but It Happened in Key West tells the true story about the 1930’s x-ray technician and his desperate and unorthodox ways to stay with the love of his life – even after death. This world premiere of It Happened in Key West is a romantic musical comedy billed to be unlike any other show you will have seen.

Broadway star Wade McCollum plays the eccentric scientist, Carl, brilliantly. With his deadpan humour and rich vocal quality he portrays the awkward and slightly deranged character well. The book, by Jill Santoriello, is witty and clever and the lyrics are, at times, hilarious. It’s a show that certainly could do with further workshopping and scaling back but on the whole it cleverly tells a rather disturbing story.

It Happened in Key West is an odd mix between the grotesque and touching. The first act is certainly full of comic moments, albeit with one or two characters and scenes that are not necessarily needed, but it is during the second act that the show gives way to developing empathy for Carl and his plight. What’s even more shocking is that this is based upon true events – something that many audience members were probably unaware of until the curtain call when the photographs of the real Carl and Elena were shown onstage.


It has enough heart to draw the audience in and the story itself is cleverly told by the talented cast. Direction, by Marc Robin, makes good use of all the cast to tell what is fundamentally a one man (and one corpse) story. Whilst the songs are not particularly memorable they are performed well, and at times allow for some lovely harmonies. Alyssa Martin impresses with her lead vocals as Elena whilst it is fantastic to hear rich, deep, classic vocals from the men.

Once again, video projections are utilised to create the backdrops but it has to be said that some of the video footage is quite bland or unnecessary whereas at some points, the flying scenes for example, it is beautiful and adds a lovely touch. The use of simple wooden crates onstage to create different locations is effective and the whole auditorium has been changed into a Key West location. The lighting also adds a magic touch, particularly during the ‘dream-like’ scenes.

With only days left in its run at the Charing Cross Theatre and plenty of offers available on ticket prices it’s certainly a show to catch if you can. It’s not going to necessarily become a huge hit but its uniqueness makes it stand out from the usual crowd and with such a talented cast it’s a great nights entertainment.


It Happened in Key West runs at the Charing Cross Theatre until the 18th August 2018. For information and tickets click here.

Photo Credit: Darren Bell

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