Monday, July 18, 2011

Death Takes a Holiday ***

When I say that this new musical at the Laura Pels Theatre is old-fashioned, I mean that as a compliment. With tuneful music by Maury Yeston and a romantic book begun by Peter Stone and completed, after Stone's death, by Thomas Meehan, this Roundabout premiere is an adaptation of Alberto Casella's 1924 popular play. Death assumes human form to experience life by spending a weekend at the lakeside villa of Duke Vittorio Lamberti in northern Italy. While there, he experiences love for the first time with the duke's daughter Grazia, whom he wishes to take with him when he leaves. The cast of 14 is excellent with Jill Paice as Grazia and Julian Ovenden as Death/Prince Sirki especially strong. Matt Cavenaugh makes the most of his one number. The lovely set by Derek Lane and period costumes by Catherine Zuber help create a romantic atmosphere. The fine voices and melodic music are the play's greatest strengths. The book sometimes gives the impression of following a checklist and the lyrics are occasionally sappy, but my overall impression was favorable. Doug Hughes directed. Running time: 2 1/2 hours including one intermission

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