Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Witches Of Eastwick Musical Review, Congress Theatre, Eastbourne, 11th March 2009


Darryl Van Horne - Marti Pellow
Alexandra Spofford - Ria Jones
Sukie Rougemont - Rebecca Thornhill
Jane Smart - Poppy Tierney
Felicia Gabriel - James Rachel Izen
Clyde Gabriel - James Graeme
Jennifer Gabriel - Joanna Kirkland
Michael Spofford - Chris Thatcher
A Girl - Victoria Hay
Fidel - Oliver Walker
Gina Marino - Ngo Omene Ngofa
Joe Marino - Russell Leighton Dixon
Greta Neff - Claire Platt
Raymond Neff - Gregory Clarke
Frank Ogden - Ross Finnie
Brenda Parsley - Samantha Mercer
Ed Parsley - Ralph Birtwell
Marge Perley - Julie Stark
Rebecca Barnes - Vicki Lee Taylor
Toby Bergman - Oliver Watton
Marcy Wills - Jenni Bowden


The 1987 movie is still a classic - with Jack Nicholson playing the devilish Darryl Van Horne and Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer competing for his attention it is an entertaining movie with a good mixture of humour, magic and sexual intrigue. Nicholson is the perfect devil.

22 Years later......does the musical match up to the movie.

In a word - no.

I hadn't read any official reviews before going to see this but having done so now the average on-line published rating seems to be 3/5. In the tour programme quotes are only taken from reviews that are 4/5 or 5/5. Seems to be a bit biased in the selection which I guess is to be expected.

This was opening night at Eastbourne and things did not start well the performance starting about 7 minutes late. Then after a few minutes of the curtain going up a "technical hitch" stopped the show for about 20 minutes.
The excuse of "this is opening night.... sorry" really didn't go down too well. After all this was nearly the end of a long tour and it's not as if everything isn't tested in the afternoon.

So nearly half an hour late we started again from the beginning. Young Victoria Hay (A Girl) professionally starting Act 1 despite the huge cheer from the audience that things were at last underway.

To be fair the first half of the show is ok. Nothing spectacular but enjoyable. This is the introduction to Eastwick and the people that live there. The arrival of the evil Darryl Van Horne to the quiet community and his meeting with his 3 future lovers.Marti Pellow

It's a half full of sexual inuendo , some slight smuttiness, some funny lines and a time for Marti Pellow (ex Wet Wet Wet) to show that he can act as well as sing. To his credit he plays the devil extremely well. Girls could have nightmares over the evil stare he seems to have perfected. Each scene is linked nicely by Victoria Hay, playing a young girl (aged 15/16). This is quite a clever touch with her passing Mr Pellow a prop appropriate to the next scene without appearing out of place.

Towards the end of this first half the first "F" word is thrown by Pellow into the lyrics drawing a gasp from the mainly elderly audience. I think at this stage the crowd may have thought this a one-off as there were no pre-booking warnings of bad lanquage or minimum age admission advise.

So the 20 minute interval arrived with the general verdict that this was a sort of "average show" and not just from me. It's surprising the mutterings you pick up from people around you.

After 20 minutes the curtain went back up. Most people believed it should have stayed down.

What started in the first half as a quite entertaining balance of evilness and sexual inuendo decended into an abyss of continual swearing, both in and out of songs and a level of self-fondling and sex act simulation by Pellow that just seemed so inappropriate and taking the interpretation of the original great movie to the extreme. It's not his fault but Pellow's Glaswegian accent sometimes made his lines difficult to understand too.

Eventually this disappointing show ended. The two women next to me gave Marti a standing ovation but they were alone in a large audience. And I believe that was because they were in love with him more than anything else. Having spent the whole show saying how gorgeous Marti is along with the bemused conductor of the band who one of the women also kept "making eyes" at I think this was an appreciation of the man rather than the show.

Not a single person was heard to say on leaving how great it was. All I could hear was how inappropriate the amount of swearing was.

I'm no prude. I've seen plays with naked men and women, plays with swearing, plays on controvercial subjects but never have I seen a show which seems to have thought that shoving so many four letter words into a performance actually adds any credit to it. The sexual fondling parts also seem out of context and don't add substance to the show.

Unless this script was made so vulgar at the request of the cast it's not their fault. But it did put a damper on what could have been such an entertaining show. After all Nicholson was no saint in the movie but it did not degenerate to gutter level humour.

I have actually read a report that swearing was actually reduced for the tour - that's funny in itself as it would have made no difference.... the swearing had upset enough people already.

What a shame that a lot of hugely talented people in the cast have to be let down by a script and songs which could so easily have made this a hugely entertaining and memorable show.

Victoria HayTo single a few of the cast out Victoria Hay, playing the young girl, was amazing. I don't make a habit of asking actresses their age but I had a feeling the delightful Victoria was one of those actresses who will be blessed playing roles much younger than her true age for a lot, if not all, of her career. I wouldn't dream of of quoting her age here but she was clever asking me "how old do you think I am?". Fortunately I didn't get a slap and underestimated,by some margin, her true age but I was right in my thoughts that a wide age range of acting roles will be open to this friendly young actress.

Joanna KirklandJoanna Kirkland as Jennifer Gabriel has a lovely voice, a beautiful smile, and was extremely friendly and chatty to meet.

Rachel Izen is outstanding as Eastwick's gossiping battleaxe Felicia Gabriel.

But to be fair this is a talented cast, at least in my opinion, let down by a script which could have been so much funnier, sexy rather than smutty and without the level of swearing seen. The evil Marti Pellow could have been equally evil with a more family oriented script.

I think the 3/5 stars awarded online by most reviews is probably reasonable. I'd be veering in the 2.5-3 area.

Meeting the cast had to be delayed by a day as the cast had a first night drink in the Congress Theatre.

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