Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Witches of Eastwick - Southampton & Tour

The Witches of Eastwick
Book & Lyrics: John Dempsey
Music: Dana P. Rowe
Director: Nikolai Foster
Choreography: Geoffrey Garratt
Reviewer: John Roberts

The Witches of Eastwick when first produced by Cameron Mackintosh in London in 2000 held its own amongst the heavyweight musical theatre productions of the time, so I was eagerly anticipating this new touring production by arguably one of musical theatres hottest directors Nikolai Foster.

The musical is set in the fictitious New England town of Eastwick and the relationships of the townsfolk. When the Devilishly delicious Darryl Van Horne comes to rage his sexual sensuality into this sleepy town and pits his emotional charge into three 'ordinary' ladies: Alexandra Spoffard, Sukie Rougemont and Jane Smart.

This new production has made some changes from the original London production including new orchestrations and the adding of new songs (Darryl Van Horne) and the removal of others (Eye of the Beholder & I love a Little Town) and it is unfortunate that for this reviewer these changes just did not work. The beauty of the original orchestrations were the ever present strings and yes at times they did appear in these new orchestrations but not to any great effect, but it is the removal of Eye of the Beholder (one of the most beautiful ballads in musical theatre) & I Love a Little Town (a much more catchy and fun introduction to Darryl than the new song) that left me slightly puzzled.

Putting these more personal opinions aside; this is a very good looking production, Peter Mackintosh's Set is very simple but stunningly effective and his bright rainbow costumes each stand out strong against each other. Fosters direction has taken a more simplistic approach than his previous productions and this is the major strength of this production, it allows the narrative to flow smoothly and with pace and makes the songs a real focus, this is especially true with the final production number 'Look at Me' which without a doubt was captivating.

Carrying the weight of top billing is Wet, Wet, Wet lead singer Marti Pellow and he makes a likable Darryl Von Horne with exuberant energy and sizzling sexuality but why a professional singer needs to have his microphone gain so high and even still appear inaudible is beyond me!

The highlight of this production is without doubt the performances given by Ria Jones (Alexandra), Rebecca Thornhill (Sukie) & Poppy Tierny (Jane) as the three 'witches', with excellent comic timing from all three and with voices that harmonise beautifully, its just a shame that these performances were spoilt by very sloppy follow spot operating, that meant at times left the performers in the dark.

This is a show that has so much going for it, but it is let down by silly mistakes which are easily fixed, at this mid point of the tour I think it may be worth Mr Foster coming to take a look at how his production is faring and try and tighten the belt a little, in what could and I am sure is and has been a fantastic production.

Photos: Robert Workman
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