NY1 Theater Review: "Death Takes A Holiday"
"Death Takes A Holiday" has its world premiere off-Broadway, courtesy of the Roundabout Theater Company. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
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"Death Takes A Holiday" is, in a word, "enchanting." Based on a 1920s play, it was adapted for the screen in 1934 and later inspired the Brad Pitt movie "Meet Joe Black." It's a romantic melodrama that's unapologetically old-fashioned; and I salute the gifted creative team for having the courage of their convictions to play it fairly straight. But they also hedged their bets by hiring a cast to die for.
Composer Maury Yeston conceived the musical initially with librettist Peter Stone, whose untimely death brought Thomas Meehan in to finish the book. It tells the story of "Death" in human form, who decides that he'd like to take a break from his eternally dreary work and experience life among the living.
Death chooses to stay with an affluent family in Italy for two days. Under the guise of a Russian prince, he charms the unwitting family members and falls for the beautiful Grazia, who just happens to be newly engaged.
Yeston has written an exquisitely lush melodic score that demands extraordinary voices which this production has in spades. To Stone and Meehan's credit, the book judiciously spreads the wealth allowing everyone to shine, even if the story stalls at points.
Stellar work from Simon Jones and Linda Balgord; Alexandra Socha; Max Von Essen as the jilted fiancee; Matt Cavenaugh, Mara Davi, Michael Siberry and the divine Rebecca Luker. Each of them so outstanding, you wish the smaller roles had more to do.
We thankfully do get plenty of the two leads, Jill Paice and British star Julien Ovenden, who are utterly transfixing.
Directed by Doug Hughes, "Death Takes A Holiday" is something closer to an operetta and it could sure use a full orchestra, but so big are the talents involved you're not likely to feel shortchanged. In fact, for sheer musicality, it rivals the best of Broadway.