The latest production from Loughborough’s Stage Society tells the story of three women who, unknowingly to themselves, harbour supernatural powers. One thundery evening they conjure up the perfect man; tall, handsome Daryl Van Horne. Van Horne’s arrival into the small town turns the place on its head and the foursome beckon quite a force of nature.
This production, directed by Sian Eaves, delivers on everything you’d expect from John Dempsey’s witty, sexy and playful script. The whole show whips along at a wicked pace both due to the fantastic music and the energetic performances of the ensemble cast. Each ensemble member manages to display a full character in their performance which makes the stage constantly alive with town life. With relatively little props and set design the cast manage to create the bustling, gossiping town of Eastwick on stage very convincingly.
The ensemble shines brightest however during the big musical numbers, all of which will leave you grinning from ear to ear. Whether it’s slow building melody of ‘Dirty Laundry’ that wriggles into your ear and stays there long after the show finishes or the dizzyingly entertaining ‘Dance with the Devil’, whose fantastic choreography really lets the ensemble take centre stage. The choreography is phenomenal throughout as are the dance skills of the cast but some mention has to also be given to the musicians, a relatively small group that nether the less manage to create a gigantic sound, sometimes threatening to overwhelm the performances on stage. However, even when the music swells to such heights the energy and enthusiasm on stage always manages to keep the audience’s attention.
Speaking of grabbing the audience’s attention, it’s nearly impossible to pick a clear standout from the four principal roles. The titular Witches each have their moment in the spotlight in the opening act as they are seduced by Jack Donald’s charismatic Van Horne. The three musical numbers that follow offer the three actors, Abi Piper, Jessica Mead and Kathryn Freeman and chance to flesh out their characters and display their fantastic vocal skills, Freeman especially showing off some impressive skills on ‘Words, Words, Words’. It’s the chemistry between the three that really shines however and from the second we are thrown into their world the three leads are highly believable and entertaining. (And, thankfully, they nail the accents too!)
It’s the character of Daryl Van Horne however that perhaps leaves the biggest impression and Donald’s scene stealing performance is the cherry on the musical cake. Tip toeing the line between likeable and despicable he wins you over in the first acts musical numbers and then leaves you sickened as things take a turn for the worst towards the films climax. The tonal shift that comes part way through the second act is handled fantastically by the cast and grips the audience for a thrilling finish.
Despite these dark films appearing later on however, The Witches of Eastwick is above all else very funny. The four leads each hit the comedy beats perfectly, as does Louisa Smith’s uptight Felicia Gabriel that provides some fantastic physical comedy. Each of the ensemble has a real comic presence that shines through constantly (although James Bentley as Fidel probably gets the biggest laugh of the night). The Witches of Eastwick is yet another brilliant night of entertainment from Loughborough Stage Society. Experience its magic tonight and tomorrow in the Cope Auditorium 19:30!
– By Jamie Hutton