Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Witches of Eastwick, Supa, ANU Arts Centre

John Dempsey and Dana P. Rowe's musical of John Updike's novel (via the George Miller-directed film) was a late period Cameron Mackintosh production (he's only produced one new show since, the stage version of "Mary Poppins", co-produced with Disney). It's an odd piece in may ways - a cross-breed between the English mega-musical with big power ballad sings and spectacular effects and the American history of musical comedy with jokes and bouncy chorus numbers.

In Supa's production, it plays largely as a vehicle for five of the leads - the three titular witches,  with Louiza Blomfield suitably earth-mothery as Alexandra, Vanessa de Jager all fluttery nerves as Sukie, and Kelly Roberts acidly sarcastic as Jane; plus Jarrad West as the darkly compelling man they conjour into town, Daryl Van Horne and Michelle Klemke as the interfering gossipy busybody Felicia who acts as their nemesis. All are cast to perfection - the three witches in particular harmonise gorgeously under Rose Shorney's musical direction. The chorus makes a good collective, too, on numbers like "Dirty Laundry" (although I do think some of the dancing comes on a bit as "we need dancing here" rather than anything particuarly expressing plot or character).

If the material starts to derail shortly after halftime, it's largely the material that's at fault - the three witches lose their individual personalities and become an unidentified clump, the show really misses Klemke after she leaves, plus the plot developments come a bit too fast and unclearly motivated. But the company remains game for it and rides out the messier plotting before a big female empowerment ballad finale (with unfortunately cliche-ridden lyrics).

Production-value wise, this is a pretty reasonable production. I quibble with the costumes for two of the trio at the end of Act One (I know it's a challenge to stick a flying harness under a big flowing dress, but they've managed it for Kelly Roberts so the other two are entitled to something a bit better too). Shorney's orchestra is as solid a combo as one could wish for.

In short, this is a fun, lush evening out with five great cast members at the top of their game and a delightful ensemble supporting.

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