“Erotic, extremely funny and extraordinarily well done” was the verdict from Julie Petrucci on the Festival Players’ 2007 show, the Witches of Eastwick, a musical comedy based on John Updike’s novel of the same name. Rachel Bye, Amy Glover, and Toni Grantham played the titular witches, with Neal Upton as the devilish Darryl van Horne.
Director Sue Painter
Musical Director Brian Thomas
Choreographer Odele Stevens
Lighting Design Paul Curtis
Sets Tony Broscombe and Chris Hindley
Costume Design Liz Milway
Bewitched by Witches – Combinations review by Julie Petrucci
Very rarely does a production come along about which there is little to criticise but Festival Players’ latest offering The Witches of Eastwick was such a production. Following on from last year’s successful Jekyll and Hyde Festival Players continue to choose challenging, modern musicals which, judging from the packed houses, is gaining the company more fans than ever.
Made famous in the late 80’s by the film this musical adaptation of the story of The Witches of Eastwick is a reminder that everyone is capable of being led astray. The show was at times erotic, extremely funny and extraordinarily well done. The singing and acting were exceptional and some sort of wizardry must have been afoot as, what could have been a technical nightmare turned out to be a dream. The whole show ran smoothly especially the flying of the witches.
The opening sequence with the whole cast dressed in beige created an immediate distinction between the staidness of the townsfolk and the alienation of the non-conformists— the three witches. Their world is turned upside-down however by the arrival of new town resident Darryl van Horne, performed brilliantly by NEAL UPTON who gave his all, leaving us in no doubt that few women could resist him even if they wanted to! Much of the success of this show hangs on the casting of the three witches and they could not have chosen three better actresses. RACHEL BYE (Alexandra Spofford) is very charismatic and has tremendous stage presence: an exceptional talent. AMY GLOVER blossomed as Jane Smart whose cello song was pretty erotic—no wonder the cello burst into flames! Hat’s off too to ANTONIA GRANTHAM (Sukie Rougemont) for that wonderful patter-song. It is hard to separate them as actresses they were quite outstanding and all gave exceptional performances. . SKY CARVER’s monstrous creation of Felicia, the wife from hell and scourge of Eastwick was great—if scary. However her dialogue was delivered with such pace and volume much of it was lost. ALAN HAY was very well cast as Felicia’s husband Clyde and convinced us that he was quite prepared to give into temptation given half the chance. A special mention too for KATE ROBINSON as Jennifer Gabriel who has a sweet voice and a very good stage presence.
The band under the expert baton of BRIAN THOMAS were back stage which added an extra challenge to both them and the performers but they were first-class: handling some very complex and unfamiliar numbers extremely well. Festival Players have a wealth of talented people in the chorus and the ensemble pieces worked well particularly in Dance with the Devil and Dirty Laundry which were especially impressive.
An article on amateur theatre in The Times recently questioned whether, if you’re not personally connected to any of the participants in an amateur production, any of it is worth sitting through. I wish the author of that piece had purchased a ticket for Witches of Eastwick because he would then have had to eat his own obtuse article. SUE PAINTER delivered a breathtaking show. Everyone who had any involvement in bringing this to the stage is to be congratulated. It is a production to be proud of and one which will be talked about for months and those involved in it will remember it for years.