Originally opening in London in 2000 and produced by Cameron Mackintosh, the contemporary musical The Witches of Eastwick tells the story of three women who are frustrated by their monotonous lives in Eastwick. After wishing for their lives to be touched by a man who can fulfil all their desires, the devilish Darryl Van Horne arrives in Eastwick. Through seduction Darryl teaches them about their hidden powers and introduces them to a new way of life, one of which takes a turn for the worst.
Birmingham Ormiston Academy’s production of The Witches of Eastwick is impressive. The power of the vocals in the opening number are remarkable, musically directed by Michelle King, the harmonies are pristine and tightly woven. The orchestra do the dynamic score by Dana P. Rowe justice, their balance is excellent which is mirrored in the strength of the vocals.
The three witches, Alexandra Spofford (Talulla Wheatley), Jane Smart (Heather Foster) and Sukie Rougemount (Lydia Gardiner) are an outstanding trio. Their vocals exude personality yet when singing together their ability to blend so exquisitely is a treat to the ear. Wheatley is a highly convincing actor, her feisty characterisation is not only audacious but she masters the witty elements of her role effortlessly, not to mention her sensational vocals. Foster’s interpretation of the highly strung divorcee is encapsulating, as a young actor she has impeccable comedy timing and this is conveyed in her scene “Waiting for the Music” in which Daryl seduces her. Her character’s progression throughout the performance is superb, she is a true star. Gardiner displays stellar vocals which capture the good intentions of her character, her vocal range is first-class, she really creates a foundation for the trio’s numbers.
Jack Sanders plays the sickly charismatic Darryl Van Horne, he radiates charm as he seduces the three ladies. Sanders moves sleazily and his cockiness as the smooth talking devil is performed terrifically. He manages to capture both the beguiling and manipulative sides to his character and fuse them together to portray his formidable dominance. His stony-faced slave Fedel played by Oliver Newey is a silent role yet the creepy character adds a sense of eery mystery to the production.
Frederica Williams-Davies plays Felicia, the uptight and overpowering lady of Eastwick. She brilliantly portrays the conceited nature of her role and creates a lot of laughs from the audience alongside her timid husband Clyde played by Dylan Hartnell. Hartnell’s characterisation is tremendous, his lack of confidence and inability to stand up to his wife is evident in his gait as he shuffles around the stage, which makes it utterly hilarious when he goes wild during Darryl’s number “Dance With The Devil” where Darryl encourages the men to let loose.
Felicia’s daughter Jennifer is played by Harriet Davenport whose sublime vocals radiate the sweetness of her character. Despite being a highly contemporary production, Jennifer’s relationship with young Michael (Andrew Smith) adds a sense of traditional musical theatre with their sweet duets as they confess their love to one another.
The quality of the ensemble numbers are outstanding, the energy and passion from every single member of the cast is unthinkably strong. Highlights including Dirty Laundry, opened with the impressive vocals of Olivia Ahmadi, it is a creatively choreographed number that is visually stunning. Choreographer Lee Crowley really pulls out all of the stops with his innovative choreography.
Directed by Rian Holloway, the characters are compelling, the performance is fluid and the transitions are smooth. The three “little girls” (Bethan Carter, Sophia Evans and Megan Carter) who are intertwined within the scenes as a reminder to the three witches of where they came from and the premise of their everlasting friendship. These transitions are directed fantastically, creating a cohesive performance. The characterisation is impressive, every character’s intentions are evident creating a fascinating community of Eastwick.
The Witches of Eastwick is a vivacious production, it is vocally powerful and the energy is electric. A phenomenal performance from a passionate and talented cast.
The Witches of Eastwick is on at the Birmingham Old Rep Theatre and tickets can be found here.
**The show is split cast and this review is of Cast B**