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Review: The Witches of Eastwick

CHMS execute their production of The Witches of Eastwick with near-on perfection. Amy Wong reviews.

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[caption id="attachment_119159" align="aligncenter" width="2048"]Image: CHMS
Image: CHMS

Venue: Central Hall

CHMS' decision to stage The Witches of Eastwick was a brave move given that it's not a particularly well-known musical, but the society definitely pulled it off thanks to the excellent casting choices.

Martha Pothen, Ellen Dunbavin and Francesca Sterlini were all well-suited to their roles as the titular witches, Alexandra, Jane and Sukie. The trio succeeded in portraying three distinctly different personalities and their strong chemistry lent credibility to their characters' close bond. Sterlini and Dunbavin did a wonderful job at conveying the transformations Sukie and Jane undergo during 'Words Words Words' and the sensual 'Waiting for the Music to Begin'. All three actresses' vocals were flawless and the haunting harmonies of 'I Wish I May' ensured it wasn't overshadowed by the flashier and more upbeat songs.

Andy Bewley did well to capture the conflicting aspects of Darryl, balancing the character's charm and charisma with his more repulsive qualities and childish neediness. His performance, while initially quite understated, possessed a subtle but powerful physicality that avoided being too reminiscent of a pantomime.

However, Rhiannon Johnson had an unrivalled stage presence as the overbearing Felicia. Her duet with Richard Spears as Clyde in 'Evil' was one of the standout songs of the evening, marred only by the lack of impact Clyde's blows had. 'Evil' also marked the first time the two figures clad in black Morphsuits felt like they had a reason to be there. After feeling a little superfluous during the first act, they provided an eerie presence during 'Evil' as a physical manifestation of Darryl's corruptive influences.

If there were one or two moments during some of the group numbers that felt a little unpolished, the slick routines of songs such as 'Dirty Laundry' and 'Dance with the Devil' more than made up for them, showing just how talented CHMS are. Katie Stevens and Em Barrett were the standout singers of 'Dirty Laundry', while Katie Garnett's beautifully choreographed dance with Bewley during 'Dance with the Devil' was simply stunning.

The deliciously darker second act involved a more effective use of the lighting than the beginning, with the red lighting helping to set a seedier and tenser tone for the rest of the show. With a minimal set that was in danger of feeling bare at times, it's a real testament to the cast that they were able to rely on the strength of their performances instead of preoccupying the audience with an overly elaborate set. It was clear that the staging had been carefully thought through; the actors' movements during 'Waiting for the Music to Begin' and 'Eye of the Beholder' cleverly helped to underscore the musical's themes of manipulation and control.

Unfortunately, problems with the microphones occasionally distracted from the brilliant performances and the scene transitions were a little slow to begin with as props were set up behind white picket fences with no action occurring on stage.

The Witches of Eastwick came so, so close to being perfect and it's a shame Nouse doesn't allow half star ratings because four stars hardly seems like an adequate score. Nonetheless, The Witches of Eastwick was a highly entertaining and ambitious show which wasn't afraid to take risks - if you're looking for something different, this is the musical for you.

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