Death Takes a Holiday
I suspect that Mr. Isherwood has never loved or been loved. He seems to delight in shows with on-stage rapes, abortions, suicides, cynicism, and a total lack of hope. DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY is an unashamed love story that is absolutely beautiful to watch unfold. The music is some of the best in many a season and so gorgeous to listen to. The cast is first rate and it is my hope that with some work on the book that this show will have a long life. At long last, a love story to cherish and remember.
In the hands of a deft director Doug Hughes skillful musicians and excellently cast actors, Death Takes a Holiday is a simply wonderful experience. The new Rondabout Theatre musical is staged at the very compatible 425 seat Laura Pels Theatre. The intimacy of the theatre is perfectly suited to this delicate production. The set Derek McLane is rather reminiscent of the recent revival of Ragtime, which ostensibly was a concert version of the musical. I was not surprised to learn that Mr. McLane did in fact design Ragtime. I am left with a bit of a chicken and egg question in wondering if Mr. McLane was hired to lend an air of a staged concert to this production, or if this production feels like a staged concert due to the set. Regardless, the device works. The orchestra-lette is set behind a scrim in the fly. While it is always nice to see the musicians no matter how few there are the upstage fly is the perfect placement in this theatre. With the diminutive orchestra upstage, the actors should be perfectly comfortable without microphones in a theatre this size. But alas, no. More than once I was reminded of the Lena Lamont mishaps in Singin in the Rain. Perhaps taping the body mic to the forehead rather than the side of the face, would help? Perhaps it is time I simply gave up this cause? Even with the excessive amplification, there is a lovely old fashioned quality to this musical. I am a huge fan of simplicity and a City Center Encores devotee. I am not bothered in the least by the lack of dance in this musical. I suspect some ticket holders might be disappointed, but I am of the "less is more" and "if you cant do it well, dont bother" school. Id much rather see a lovely performance of honest portrayal than a casserole of all things to all people. The book, by Peter Stone 1776, Titanic does not alter the original storyline or add superfluous sidelines. There were two incongruent attempts at lewdness with which Mr. Stone should not have sullied himself. In the film to musical genre, it is as straightforward in the very best sense as The Light in the Piazza was/is. Maury Yeston Titanic, Nine, Grand Hotel wrote the lyrics and music, and clearly is also no stranger to the movie - musical genre. There are a few absolutely delicately pretty songs in the show. Nothing one would necessarily hum, but quite nice. I did have an issue with the scoring of the music. Many of the numbers are written in a far too expansive range. Nothing would have been lost by bringing down the excessive high notes. The actors, rarely hit them, and when they did it was with effort and flop sweat. It was distracting to the audience and made me wonder what was motivating Mr. Yeston. The best musical numbers are those with the household staff. Their humor and vocal prowess were an absolute delight. There is also a number, performed sitting on the apron, by the three youngest female characters, that is very memorable. The three part harmony is splendid. The casting of this production seems to be a nod to the past as well. There are boldfaced theatre names Matt Cavenaugh and Rebecca Luker but no US magazine veterans. Mr. Cavenaughs role is tiny, which I found surprising, considering his recent lead roles West Side Story, A Catered Affair. Ms. Lukers role was much more significant. Oh, to hear her sing! Even in a mostly forgettable song. Had it not been for her solo, I would have considered the entire cast all quite very good singers. She transcended them all. The performance I saw was the first in which the lead had dropped out. He was the same actor who was a recent no-show for opening night. The cause stated is laryngitis. One has to wonder about the preparation younger actors are receiving. More often than not, I have witnessed no-shows at matinees and they are always the under 35 set, leading me to wonder about their physical preparation for 8 shows a week. I am also at a loss as to how an amplified, rather subdued score its no Phantom! can be so straining. I do not wish to sound unsympathetic. Truly. I simply wonder if more is owed this generation of performers. Digression aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this show. Even without an overture, I knew in the first 5 minutes that it was going to be a good time. I love seeing new things, and what a joy to see something lovely and devoid of gimmick. There were no mindless repetitive thumping bass lines, no screaming lyrics and no sound effects. There were instead; honest portrayals of human beings, with a score that continually worked to move the story along. Much is made of bright and shiny these days. Even more is made of everyones 15 minutes and spotlights. We are often in pursuit of perfection, in material objects, in others, etc. In musical theatre there is an embarrassment of perfection. But for every Gypsy or Showboat, there is a Starlight Express, and in between, there is a whole lot of real estate. I am very happy to live in the neighborhood of Death Takes a Holiday. www.heresheisboys.com
This was the best musical I have seen in years. The score was beautiful, and the cast terrific. I think the show can be worked on to make it even better, but even as is, it was a great evening.
Isherwoods review in todays NY Times was right on. Only redeemed by some gorgeous singing the show, for me, was very disappointing overall. And I cant believe that Doug Hughes, who has been brilliant in the past, directed with so little panache. MY direction for HIM is to go sit in seat Q8 at a performance just to see how his blocking is horribly audience-UNfriendly. And its a small theater for gawds sake 420 seats, why did he/they opt for a sound system at all? That cast has exceptionally strong voices and certainly doesnt need amplification...but, then, I often have that caveat about shows in general. My 2 stars are for the singing voices; I trashed the other 3 for a variety of reasons.
A must see...haunting songs, amazing acting--a classy musical all around.
A must see...haunting songs, amazing acting--a perfect musicl all around.
I would see it again. Its very well done.
I really liked this play for many of the reasons mentioned above--great acting and singing and costumes. I appreciated how the play explored interesting questions about life and death: what does it look like when death comes to life? How does he affect the lives of people around him? What happens when death loves life and life loves death? It gave me a lot to think about along with some good laughs a lot of it was funny and beautiful costumes and voices to enjoy.
An absolute waste of Broadway talent
The entire cast performed splendidly and their singing voices were spectacular across the board. But, unfortunately, the play itself is nothing to write home about: the book is choppy and dull while the music and lyrics are derivative, pedestrian and something of a failed attempt at cobbling together operatic renditions with tunes more typical of Broadway musicals. In sum, it was pretty much a waste of some exceptional acting and vocal talent on a theatrical vehicle not really worthy of their efforts. But that doesn?t mean that we didn?t end up having a good time anyway. We did. The costumes were lush and lovely to behold and at least a couple of the musical numbers were fun Mara Davi?s performance in ?Shimmy Like They Do in Paree? and the humorous reprise of ?Life?s a Joy? by Jay Jaski, Patricia Noonan, Joy Hermalyn and Don Stephenson were both delightful. Additionally, Alexandra Socha?s insouciant performance as Daisy and Don Stephenson?s humorous depiction of Fidele brought smiles to our faces. I have posted an expanded review of this play and several other plays on my blog www.aseatontheaisle.blogspot.com.
I saw this on its first night of previews: gorgeous orchestrations, beautiful costuming, and an excellent cast. The set design works well on the small stage with a lovely backdrop of the Italian vista. It swept me away... There are comic elements throughout, so it is certainly not dark and gloomy even with Death as the main character. Julian Ovenden is quite impressive as not only Death but also in his masquerade as Prince Nikolai. He is charming, childlike, threatening, romantic...you get the picture. He has to embody many different emotions as he dives into the world of the living, and he does a terrific job. His chemistry and vocalizations with Jill Paice, who plays Grazia, are quite wonderful. I cant get the lyrics and music out of my head, lush and romantic. Oh, I hope there is a cast recording. Two thumbs up for me. I loved it.
Whilst this may be in the old school of musical genres, the cast is superb with excellent voices, the songs and music are very good and the set excellent. This one deserves to run for a while it is a good advertisement for well produced and directed theater..
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