Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Witches Of Eastwick - The Sunderland Empire Theatre

The Witches of Eastwick
Based upon the novel by John Updike
Book & lyrics: John Dempsey
Music:Dana P. Rowe
Director: Nikolai Foster
Reviewer: Ian Cain

In the sleepy New England town of Eastwick three women, Alexandra Spofford, Sukie Rougemont and Jane Smart, are bored with the monotony of their dull lives and, over a few Martini’s, they wish that they could conjure the arrival of a handsome, mysterious man who might bring with him some much-needed excitement. Soon afterwards, their ‘spell’ seems to have been successful when Darryl Van Horne moves into town. The mysterious Darryl seduces each of the women in turn and creates a moral scandal.

This touring production, with sets and costumes designed by Peter McKintosh, is riotously colourful and not at all for the faint-hearted. Directed by the hugely talented Nikolai Foster, it is laden with phallic symbols, sexual innuendos and provocative positions.

Marti Pellow, as Van Horne, has female members of the audience, many of whom are old enough – but perhaps not strong enough – to behave better, transgressing into sexually-charged, salacious sorceresses. And he clearly revels in doing it, too. With his hip-swivelling, his groin gyrating and his tongue flicking he has more than just three ‘witches’ held firmly under his captivating spell! His performance oozes charisma, sex appeal and downright dirtiness that delights his legions of female admirers and leaves their fellas feeling more than just a little inadequate by comparison. Indeed, he positively smoulders and sizzles as he prowls around the stage in a predatory manner.
Ria Jones, Rebecca Thornhill and Poppy Tierney all deliver fantastic performances, too. They each possess beautiful voices which, when put together in harmony, are exquisite. Rachel Izen is an actress who never disappoints and her cameo role as Felicia Gabriel, the town’s self-appointed moral guardian, injects much comedy into the evening’s proceedings.

A talented ensemble add pizzazz to the big numbers and handle Geoffrey Garratt’s choreography with ease and aplomb. Indeed, The Witches Of Eastwick is a devilishly decadent evening’s entertainment that is wickedly wonderful. This vibrant production is so hot and steamy that I would not be surprised if the Sunderland Empire were required to install a brand new air conditioning system by the end of the week!
Photos: Robert Workman
The Witches Of Eastwick runs at The Sunderland Empire Theatre until Saturday 21st March 2009.
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