True Love Never Dies

The premiere of Ben Harrison’s musical Undying Love

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Lead actor Jamie Callahan playing Count von Cosel tangos with his love Elena Hoyos, played by Amber Good. HAYSBLINCKMANN/Keys Weekly

It’s undeniable: Key West just loves a good love story, no matter how bizarre or scandalous, and the true tale of Count von Cosel’s love for Elena Hoyos doesn’t get any more scintillating and jaw-dropping. Author, musician and connoisseur of wonderful weird tales of Key West, Ben Harrison has written “Undying Love: A Key West Musical,” premiering Wednesday, Feb. 14 at The Studios of Key West. The production of this compelling bit of Key West history promises to be rich with humor, beguiling behavior and exceptional music.

“What really got to me was he (von Cosel) truly loved her; even after after she was dead, he really believed they were together,” said Harrison, who, once knowing the story, couldn’t let go. It’s the tale of Count von Cosel, who came from Germany to Key West in the 1930s, and while working as a radiologist, fell in love with his beautiful patient Elena Hoyos, who subsequently died. Stricken with grief, von Cosel became a recluse (somewhere on Flagler Avenue but the building does not exist today) and kept her body embalmed in a laboratory for seven years. The true story went on to become international news, equivalent to tabloid sensationalism today.

While singing back in the 80s at the Bull and Whistle, Harrison penned a folksy song about the macabre love story and it became his most requested song. Intrigued, Harrison went on to write the full story of von Cosel and Hoyos in his book “Undying Love: The True Story of a Passion That Defied Death” in 1997. During the ’90s, Harrison was able to interview people who knew Count von Cosel and/or remembered the sensational story, painting a complete picture of this morose but beautiful love story.

“There are so many twists and turns, so many layers,” said Harrison. “It was the people’s opinion that was so captivating, because the public thought he was the most romantic person in the world.” At the time, Key West was a small, isolated fishing village post-Great Depression, so when more than 6,000 people came to Elena’s funeral after her body was discovered, von Cosel touted afterward that he helped put Key West on the map.

Teaming up with Director Richard Grusin and Musical Director Larry Baeder, Harrison has put together a full-scale musical featuring more than a dozen songs, five musicians and a cast of 10 talented actors. This will be The Studios’ largest in-house production and has been in the making for over a year. The music will take the audience back to the ’30s’ jazzy, folksy, ragtime era, and projections of actual photographs from the time will enhance the backdrop. Harrison’s writing always plays on the edge of witty and deviantly funny, so it’s bound to be an original not to be missed. Opening night is sold out, but tickets for all other performances are on sale now at $55 VIP, $38 general admission, $30 members and can be purchased at tskw.org or by calling 305-296-0458.

Undying Love, A Key West Musical

At The Studios Of Key West

Feb. 14-March 3, 2018

Tickets at tskw.org or 305-296-0458

“It has this ‘sounds awful but tell me more’ reaction; the reaction is the same now as it was then.” – Richard Grusin, director of Undying Love

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