Falling in Love with Mr Dellamort, written by Jack Feldstein (book and lyrics) and Paul Doust (music and lyrics), and directed by Ella Jane New, is an original Gothic dark comedy musical, which tells the story of the enigmatic and charming Mr Dellamort (James Monroe Iglehart) and his beautiful beachside South Carolina Guest House, Maison Dellamort.
Shortly after Christmas, three unhappy people receive an unexpected invitation to spend the time between Christmas and New Year at Maison Dellamort. They are Barry Scott (Telly Leung), an enthusiastic fitness fanatic, Mina Thompson (Jackie Hoffman), a lonely serial divorcee, and Rhonda Lipson (Lena Hall) who is struggling with drug addiction. All three jump at the chance to escape their mundane lives and quickly fall for Mr Dellamort’s charms.
However, shortly after Mr Dellamort’s guests arrive, the talkative and exuberant Sue Grimshaw (Courtney Reed) appears with a sprained ankle and a broken down car. Insisting on staying at Maison Dellamort, regardless of Mr Dellamort’s protestations over all guests needing an invite, she soon integrates herself into the group and begins to irritate Mr Dellamort as she continuously pokes fun at his strict rules and uptight attitude.
It quickly becomes clear that Sue’s story is riddled with holes and she is clearly not all that she seems to be. But Mr Dellamort finds himself letting his guard down and allowing Sue’s bubbly nature to infiltrate his stern demeanour. As Barry, Mina and Rhonda continue to fight over Mr Dellamort, Sue is the only person who remains resistant to his charms. New Year’s Eve is approaching fast, and the midnight moment is sure to bring drama which will change everything forever.
The guests arriving at Maison Dellamort and their immediate admiration of their mysterious host echoes Jonathan Harker’s arrival at Castle Dracula. Mina’s name is an obvious link to Stoker’s Gothic novel and her numerous divorces and desperation for love are a subtle nod to what may have been Mina’s fate if Jonathan had found himself unable to move past their encounter with the vampire.
The enraptured sadism of Dracula is also alluded to through Mr Dellamort’s disappointment in his guests. Reminiscing about royalty and celebrities staying at the house in the past, he is profoundly put out by the lacklustre nature of Mina, Barry and Rhonda. Sue’s resistance of his attractions prove to be the very thing that he needed, after becoming so used to people falling at his feet. Reed’s performance has a lovely cheeky quality as she counters Mr Dellamort’s insistence that everyone falls in love with him with her own claims of everyone falling for her eventually.
The haunting and mysterious theremin features in the musical score throughout. The echoing wails are reminiscent of the Banshee of Irish folklore and give the musical a Gothic and melancholy feeling. The score is excellent and the songs featured throughout the piece are well performed as well as catchy and original. Some of the songs are also very funny, particularly Sue’s ode to married life and the excitement over being able to choose her own toilet and teacups.
The story is narrated by Gavin Lee, whose enthusiastic performance is riveting as he breaks the fourth wall talking directly to the audience with a sarcastic and wry commentary on the plot as well as beautiful and intricate descriptions of the Gothic setting. The true nature of Mr Dellamort is thinly veiled by Lee, who makes it clear from the start that there is more to this sterile guest house than meets the eye. Carefully withholding certain details however, maintains the mystery of the piece and adds a subtle thread of fear.
Mr Dellamort’s patience quickly wears thin as his guests insist on breaking his rules, with many of them wearing shoes in the house and Rhonda furtively using drugs in her room. Hall’s performance is very funny, particularly her random interjections as she picks up on tiny elements of the conversations around her which spark her interest.
Revelling in the misery of unrequited love and the inevitable fear of relinquishing control to a complete stranger, this is a very entertaining piece of theatre with plenty of laugh out loud moments and an eerie feeling which keeps you on the edge of your seat. Wry observations on romance contrast with the heady feeling of lust which the characters are feeling and the mystery of the true nature of the characters is fascinating. Falling in Love with Mr Dellamort is a funny and engaging musical which will keep you guessing right up until the dramatic conclusion.
Falling in Love with Mr Dellamort is being streamed by Broadway Podcast Network and is available here http://bpn.fm/dellamort
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 11th August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★