Jack Feldstein’s new three-part audio musical adaptation of Falling in Love with Mr. Dellamort by Feldstein (book and co-lyrics) and Paul Doust (music and co-lyrics), which had its world premiere on stage for a limited engagement at The Slipper Room in 2017, is now available for full binge listening today, Friday the 13th, on the Broadway Podcast Network. It presents a strange combination of eerie segments of theremin music with upbeat pop songs, a blithe look at the weighty themes of deception, love, and death, and an unlikely mix of incompatible and unrelatable characters designed to be laughable stereotypes (not to elicit empathy for their deadly predicaments).
In the preternatural tale, three strangers receive an unexpected New Year’s Eve invitation “Out of the Blue” to a remote guest house in South Carolina from the eponymous proprietor of Maison Dellamort (“house of death”). And, being the “lost souls” that they are, they all go. And they all stay. And so does a perky and loquacious 25-year-old uninvited drop-in, who distracts the oddly fastidious old-fashioned host, diverts him from the rules of “admin,” and disrupts his rituals and secret plans, as all of the characters (well, all but one) are stricken with inexplicable cases of unrequited love “To Die For” (“the only love that lasts”) – even though the house, which has seen better days, “doesn’t look like the photo,” and their host never hesitates to point out their fatal flaws.
Directed by Ella Jane New, the morbid musical rom-com is performed by a star-studded cast of Broadway veterans, led by James Monroe Iglehart (who will be returning to the Broadway stage next month as the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton) in the title role and Courtney Reed (Aladdin) as his surprise caller Sue Grimshaw. The expressive voices of the other guests are provided Lena Hall (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) as druggie bad girl Rhonda Lipson, Jackie Hoffman (Hairspray) as the ungracefully aging and lonely Mina Thompson, and Telly Leung (Aladdin; Glee) as the hot gay dancing “gym junkie” Barry Scott, with Gavin Lee (Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical) serving as the creepy narrator.
Each member of the top-notch cast creates a distinctive personality and delivers the requisite strong and identifiable vocals, and the otherworldly sounds of the theremin, played by Dorit Chrysler, set an appropriately haunting tone when heard. The production values, too, are at the highest technical level, with audio mixing by Cricket S. Myers, Christian Lee (credited with the final mix and mastering), Matthew Shane, and Elisabeth Weidner (who also provided the dialogue editing).
Despite the considerable talents at work, the conflicting mash-up of genres, in the vein of the 1973 cutting-edge cult classic The Rocky Horror Show and Mel Brooks’ 1974 film Young Frankenstein, doesn’t always work as well here. The overly light-hearted dialogue and show-tune style of the original songs often detract from the underlying macabre intrigue, the attempted humor sometimes flatlines (as with the revealing cockroach and bingo scenes), and, most significantly for me, the characters’ personalities and actions largely defy likeability, making it hard to care what becomes of them – even with the surprise twist that comes at the end. As a result, I, for one, wasn’t completely giving myself over to “falling in love with Mr. Dellamort.” Listen and find out for yourself if you just want him to kiss off, or if you feel the attraction.
Running Time: Episode 1 – Approximately 30 minutes; Episode 2 – Approximately 36 minutes; Episode 3 – Approximately 38 minutes.
All three episodes of Falling in Love with Mr. Dellamort are now streaming free of charge on the Broadway Podcast Network. For more information, visit the show’s website. The original cast recording is available at Broadway Records and wherever digital music is sold.