Death Takes A Holiday

Based on the 1920’s Alberto Cassella play La Morte in Vacanza, Death Takes A Holiday is a chamber musical with a book by Thomas Meehan and Peter Stone, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston. After creating their Broadway blockbuster Titanic, Stone and Yeston were searching for something smaller and more intimate to work on. So they turned to the subject of Death, as a man, intrigued by the human desire to cling to life and the fact he is simply exhausted after the war and Spanish flu tragedies – he is in need of a holiday. 

Tarento and Southerland have a reputation for turning the most obsolete musicals into theatrical heaven, but even though it’s enjoyable in parts, this one couldn't be revived no matter how many holidays you give it.

As elegant and sophisticated this beautiful and intimate musical is, I failed to connect or care about any of it. The characters, the story and the question it asks about the beauty in death and love. The only beauty of this piece is its incredible score by Yeston, simple and gracious. This is not a hum-along musical; but as always prevails in Yeston’s work, Titanic, Grand Hotel, it is the wonderful sophistication. Under the effortless guidance of musical director Dean Austin, it smoothers you in melodic joy and indulgence that lifts you to the rafters on every high string and crescendo. Unfortunately though, with its whimsical characters, simple dialogue and sparse cliché plot points, there is little match to its wondrous score – leaving a disjointed feeling throughout the evening.

As usual producer Danielle Tarento and director Thom Sutherland have assembled a talented team of cast and creatives to breathe life into Death. A well devised and practical set by Morgan Large plus Mat Daw’s sensitive lighting evoke a haunting essence in perfect balance and are truly eye capturing in this production. Southerland’s direction sticks to his usual brand of chamber presentation as seen in his previous triumphs Titanic, Parade, Grand Hotel; however, as much as his presentation is clean and precise, it missed with the quirkiness of this piece. His simplicity and choral procession of furniture, scenery and ensemble didn’t invigorate or ignite.

Some generous performances lit up the stage and warmed the ears. Chris Peluso is in fine voice as Death and is graciously joined by the soprano delights of Zoe Doano as the love lorn Grazia. James Gant as man-servant Fidele is always a joy to watch and simply baring witness to the wonders of theatrical legend Gay Soper as Countess Evangelina di San Danielli is truly a delight to any musical theatre lovey.

Tarento and Southerland have a reputation for turning the most obsolete musicals into theatrical heaven, but even though it’s enjoyable in parts, this one couldn't be revived no matter how many holidays you give it.

Reviews by Stuart Saint

Charing Cross Theatre

Death Takes A Holiday

★★★
Southwark Playhouse

Grey Gardens

★★★★★
Southwark Playhouse

Grand Hotel

★★★★★
Southwark Playhouse

Gods And Monsters

★★★★★
Southwark Playhouse

Dogfight

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon

Wendy Wason: Hotel California

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

In Northern Italy, shortly after World War One, Death disguises himself as a handsome young prince to try to understand why life is so precious and death so feared. But when he unexpectedly falls in love with a newly engaged young woman, this mysterious stranger discovers that love may in fact be stronger than death.

With an inspiring book by multi Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan and Peter Stone, based on the 1928 Italian play of the same name which went on to inspire the movie, Meet Joe Black, starring Brad Pitt as Death, and a lush, romantic score by multi Tony Award winner Maury Yeston (Titanic, Nine), this is a soaring story of the preciousness of life and the overwhelming power of love.