The Witches of Eastwick

Date 14th May 2015
Society Winchester Musicals & Opera Society
Venue Theatre Royal, Winchester
Type of Production Musical
Director Lisbeth Rake
Musical Director Martin Paterson
Choreographer Suzanne Hall

Report

Author: Stuart Ardern

This show was a joy from start to finish.  It opened in the square of a New England town, a simple but very effective set which was used for most of the show, with a few variations in the wing flats to suggest interiors.  The first song - Eastwick Knows - was played around a series of tableaux; the company would move and then freeze: very precisely and beautifully lit.  Through this we were introduced to the town and most of the principals.  Most, but not all: Darryl Van Horne (Adrian Hickford) had to wait until he was summoned by the second song, sung by the three witches of the title - three bored women, wishing for a bit of romance in their lives.

The trio of leading ladies - Jane (Rachel Wells), Sukie (Katie Hickson) and Alexandra (Abigail Miller) were brilliant throughout.  For me, the singing highlight was Words, Words, Words, a patter song in which, under the influence of Van Horne, the stuttering, tongue-tied Sukie became fluent and packed-in more and more words as the song sped up.   Marina Humphrey was spot on in her portrayal of Felicia Gabriel, whose forceful, prudish personality dominates the town; of course she disapproved of the romance between her daughter and Alexandra’s son (Molly Moffitt and Matt McGrath), which  was deftly realised with a mixture of seriousness and comedy.  The strangest character in the show is Little Girl (comically portrayed by Grace Durber) who fulfils the role of narrator by singing songs that don’t actually narrate anything - her appearances indicate turning points and changes of mood.

Whilst most of the show is carried by the principals, the company also got a thorough work-out, with excellent singing and dancing, most memorably in ‘Dirty Laundry’ towards the end of Act 1 and ‘Dance with the Devil’ in Act 2.

Technical realisation was very good, with the whole show appearing to flow seamlessly despite the many scene changes.  The lighting set the moods without being obtrusive and the sound quality was very high with clear vocals and no extraneous noise.  The band under MD Martin Paterson were playing behind the set.  The sound balance was excellent, and we got to see them briefly when the backdrop flew up for the concert sequence in Act 1.  And, talking of flying, the script calls for the three witches to give a literal realisation of their metaphorical longing to fly.  This was achieved in a brilliant way.  The three stood in a row, singing, as a gauze was dropped in front of them.  With the gauze in place, an image of each was projected onto the gauze where they were standing.  Then a black cloth was dropped behind the gauze, at which point the three ladies had been replaced by images of themselves, and the projected images flew.  The positioning and timing had to be very precise, but the result was spectacular.