WITCHES OF EASTWICK – 18 JULY 2000 (Opening Night)

There is something special about seeing a show on the opening night. The audience seems to have that extra buzz about it and when it is one of the biggest openings of the year are you surprised.

Witches of Eastwick is a fresh addition to the west end. It falls back on the old style musical genre, an overture, set scenes, witty script and of course the songs. It is set in a 1950ish style with perhaps a little foot in fantasy. The costume design is colourful and harks back to the ‘perfect’ image of the white fenced 50’s suburbia. Staging in terms of back drops and trucks is white fences, twee houses and the perfect valley in the background with every hill symetrical. Darryl’s house is red and more red and the exploding church marks the disappearance of him. It is nothing short of colourful.

The stars of the show for me were the three witches themselves. All three blend together perfectly in their joint numbers yet all have a chance to perform songs which could have been written for the actresses in question., in particular Maria Friedman’s ‘Words, Words, Words’. All three created such individual characters and character transformations. The performances were very natural and they used the script, which contained many excellent one liners, completely to their advantage. The piece has been well written so that all three have an equal status in the piece and for me highlight were the three trios they did ‘Make him mine’, ‘I wish I may’ and ‘Look at me’.

Ian McShane has that perfect charm for the character of Darryl and even though he spoke / sang most of the songs this fitted the character and I wasn’t finding myself wishing for a better singer as his characterisation left nothing wanting. He certainly seemed to be enjoying himself as did the whole company

Peter Joback and Caroline Sheen provided the ‘young love’ aspect to the show. Where these characters could have easily drowned in saccharine the script would always add a wry comment or observation to stop it drowning completely. It was as if the show was making a little fun at those kind of romances shown in films of old. Their duet, Something, was a sweet song of their love. I feel that their story could have been fleshed out a little more perhaps bringing more of the disapproval of Jennifer’s mother, Felicia, out.

Felicia Gabriel must be a wonderful part to play. We have all seen this type of character. A bit of a matriarch of the town expecting everyone to say ‘how high’ if she said jump. Rosemary Ashe was great in this role and brought Felicia character out beautifully and Stephen Tate as her husband Clyde provided a great foil for her nastiness. Her final exit to a song called ‘Evil’ provided an apt epitaph for Felicia herself.

The chorus make up a great group of slight OTT caricatures of this suburban life. I loved the way the choreography created that sense of ‘gossiping neighbours’ just by the movements. The chorus were a lively crowd bringing out the nature of the residents of Eastwick to the fore.

The music fitted the style of the piece very well moving from chorus numbers to ballads to duets to razzle dazzle. This is one score I am looking forward to be more acquainted with in the future.

Act 2 perhaps didn’t have the comic edge to act 1 but at that stage of the story didn’t lead itself as much to comic situations with the witches coming to terms with what they have done and Darryl believing he could do as he wished with this town.

The wires for flying were cleverly introduced and although they could be clearly visible once the witches were flying for safety reasons there is no other way to do it. But it didn't matter as the scene is magical,not many other shows can boast the three leading ladies flying above their heads.

I thoroughly enjoyed witches and look forward to my next visit in a few weeks times. It is nice to be able to indulge in a little fantasy for a few hours and what a cast to ask for in your fantasy !!

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