Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Three Extraordinary Women Turn Ogunquit Into Coven-try: Review of "The Witches of Eastwick" at the Ogunquit Playhouse

Ogunquit Playhouse has been delighting Northeast audiences for over 80 years with Broadway quality shows. As the 2014 season nears it conclusion, the current offering is the Northeast Premiere of the Cameron Mackintosh produced musical, "The Witches of Eastwick."  The show is based closely on the John Updike novel.  The action is set in 1967, a time when women are beginning to assert themselves into a more prominent and aggressive role in society.  All Hell breaks loose when three bored women in sleepy Eastwick, Rhode Island met more than the man of their dreams in the person of Daryll Van Horne - the Devil incarnate.  The plot rises and falls on Van Horne's seduction of these three women and subsequent supernatural feats he empowers them to perform.

This production is delightful largely due to the powerful performances of the actors portraying the witches and the actor portraying Van Horne.  Nancy Anderson as Sukie Rougemont, Sara Gettelfinger as Alexandra Spofford and Mamie Parris as Jane Smart are simply stunning and enchanting as the three women whose troubles with men make them particularly vulnerable to the wiles of Darryl Van Horne, played with leering charm by golden-voiced James Barbour.  He sounds like a Faustian Robert Goulet, and takes command of the stage in each scene in which he sings, dances and preens.  The sexual tension and chemistry among Van Horne and the three women is the engine that drives this show.

Adding a layer of conflict is the town busybody, Felicia Gabriel, played by Sally Struthers, who has become a summer favorite among Ogunquit audiences.  Those of us of a certain age remember Ms. Struthers as Gloria in "All In The Family."  The Struthers of 2014 is not the same actress we came to admire.  She has a hard time keeping up with the true Broadway professionals who anchor the show, and the costume designer did not do her any favors by dressing her in a very tight outfit that had me wondering why there was a senior US Airways flight attendant in the opening number.

An intriguing subplot is the budding romance between Alexandra's son, Michael and Felicia's daughter, Jennifer.  Played convincingly by Joey Barriero and Brittney Santoro.  The two of them convey a nice refreshing touch of innocence in contrast to the devilish shenanigans in the air - until they are separately enticed to the dark side by Van Horne.  There is a rousing production number, "Dance With The Devil," set in the town's dowdy diner.  Van Horne bedevils many of the townsfolk - causing them to part with most of their bowling night apparel in a rollicking dance number that has the denizens of Eastwick approaching "Full Monty" state of undress.  During the number, Michael succumbs, allowing the audience to appreciate the results of the many hours of work that Mr. Barriero has put in at the gym.

Dance With The Devil
James Barbour as Van Horne
Joey Barriero as Michael
Photo by Gar Ng

Another aspect of this production worth highlighting is the beautiful and flexible set designed by Michael Schweikardt.  There is a strong feeling that we are in a 1967 New England seaside village, with weathered clapboards and gables.  Lighting is by Paul Miller, Costumes by Dustin Cross.  Book and Lyrics are by John Dempsey, Music by Dana Rowe.  Musical Direction by Julian Bigg, Choreography by Lisa Stevens and Directed by Shaun Kerrison.

The Saturday matinee audience loved the show and gave the cast a rousing standing ovation.

The play runs through September 27.

Next up to close the season will be The Addams Family.



Ogunquit Playhouse Website

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