The Witches of Eastwick

WitchesThe Witches of Eastwick – Riverside Studios – 28th July 2013

“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.”  Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

A musical? I hear myself groan but hey, loyalty demands that a mother sees her daughter perform. Based on an early novel by John Updike, the show tells a semi-Faustian tale of three dis-satisfied women, tired of their mundane lives and hungry for a man. Their desires are answered by the arrival of the devilish Darryl Van Horne, who seduces all three women, unlocks their true power and sparks controversy in the town of Eastwick. As their modern day witchcraft becomes darker and out of control, the women realise their mistake and seek to cast Darryl out of their lives.

Helena Tang as Jane Smart excels in the scene during which Van Horne seduces her through her love of music, Claire Linney is a revelation as Alexandra Spofford, and Katharine Banbury (Sukie Rougemont) is a perfect example of frustration personified. All three have confident vocals and forcefully carry the show with the full support of an enthusiastic cast.

Seducing each of the women in turn Darryl teaches them how to further expand the powers locked within, though their new unorthodox lifestyle scandalises the town. As these powers become more sinister and events spiral out of control, the women come to realise that Darryl’s influence is corrupting everyone he comes into contact with. They resolve to use their new-found strength to rid him from their lives.

Conor Mills immerses himself convincingly as the sycophantic seducer. Rosalyn Miller plays the snooty Townswomen Guild chairperson, Felicia, who becomes a comedic target for the black magic of Bryan Polikof who, at times, struggles to play her not-so-innocent long suffering husband, Clyde.

All in all, performances aren’t the most nuanced but the talent is clearly there. Having seen several City Academy productions now, the cast are radically improving and learning.  So it is such a shame that the mediocre storyline is neither compelling nor particularly original.

This City Academy Musical Theatre production is slickly directed by Pippa O’Brien and imaginatively choreographed by Rebecca Wicking.

As the book did nothing to endear Updike to his feminist critics, the musical did nothing to win me over to the genre either.