- Finian Hackett
Review: The Witches Of Eastwick soars in one-night-only extravaganza
The twisted story of The Witches of Eastwick began life back in 1984 as a novel written by John Updike. The dark story of the three women from the fictional town of Eastwick who summon their supposed dream man was adapted into a lighter-hearted feature film in 1987 featuring Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson.
The film grew the story's popularity and 13 years later, a musical adaptation hit the West End stage. Opening at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane the show starred Lucie Arnaz as Alexandra, Maria Friedman as Sukie, Joanna Riding as Jane and Ian McShane as Darryl Van Horne. The production ran for 17 months (including the move from the Drury Lane to the more intimate Prince of Wales) and picked up four Olivier nominations for Best New Musical, Best Lighting Design, a Best Actress nom for Riding and a Supporting Actress nom for Rosemary Ashe.
The show has become beloved amongst fans and the theatre industry as a whole but is very rarely performed. Outside of the show's US premiere in 2007 and it's UK tour in 2008, there has only been a handful of professional production across the globe.
22 years later, the witches returned to the West End for one night only! Directed by the show's original 'Sukie' Maria Friedman, the Sondheim Theatre was filled with musical theatre royalty for what became one epic night.
Natasha J Barnes, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Laura Pitt-Pulford led the cast with their bewitching talents. They worked so slickly as a trio and their bond on stage was inseparable! Barnes (a last-minute replacement for Danielle Steers due to Covid) was a glorious Alexandra with such witty delivery. Fletcher, fresh from her run in Cinderella, was on top form as Sukie. Her tongue-tying number 'Words, Words, Words' brought on thoroughly deserved rapturous applause from the audience. Pitt-Pulford shone the brightest as the shy turned sexy Jane Smart. She is a formidable actress who desperately needs a show written around her!
They were all seduced by John Partridge who starred as the devilish Daryl. Giles Terera was originally set to star, with Partridge only taking over with six days notice! That didn't stop him from being completely off-book and looking like he knew the part like the back of his hand. A true professional.
Claire Moore delivered a show-stopping performance as town busy body Felicia Gabriel. Forever a joy to watch on stage, the West End legend grasped every inch of comedy she could and absolutely nailed it. If this were a full run, she would've won that Olivier. Honourable mentions also go to Nathan Amzi as Clyde, Chrissie Bima as Jennifer and Alfie Friedman as Michael.
The fully staged concert also featured a large ensemble made up of seasoned West End performers. The Guildford School of Acting saw a lot of representation that evening. Six ensemble members were new graduates from the school as well as a 17-strong choir featuring Actor-Muso and Musical Theatre graduates from this year, many of whom marked this as their West End debut. They are a truly fabulous bunch of people and all have remarkable careers ahead of them.
It baffles me how this whole production came together in just under a week. Though there were a few obstacles along the way (including Friedman directing the show via Zoom due to Covid!) the show was pretty flawless and the reception from the audience was wild.
I went into this completely blind. I knew a few of the songs but apart from that, nothing. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I adored this show and I can see why so many others adore it too. A catchy score by Dana P. Rowe and clever lyrics and book by John Dempsey compliment each other so well and make for one hell of an enjoyable evening at the theatre.
Rowe flew over from the US to attend this concert and ended the evening by accompanying Maria Friedman and Carrie Hope Fletcher in a performance of the well-loved song 'Loose Ends'. Lots of tears both on stage and in the auditorium!
I will be truly disappointed if this one-night concert doesn't lead to something more substantial. This show has been dying to be revived for decades and there truly is no better time than the present!
Photos by Danny Kaan