The Witches of Eastwick is a musical adaptation of John Updike’s novel, published in 1984. This version, directed by Jeremy Tustin, follows the same basic outline of the novel, three women (or witches), who live in a small stereotypical town in New England, plagued by the tedious nature of their lives, unwittingly wish for a man to fulfil their needs. However, (as all magic seems to go), it backfires and unforeseen consequences mean that the witches must use their newfound power to rid this man that wreaked havoc on their small town. The musical adaptation, in order to enhance the viewer’s experience, has absorbed this plot into a cleverly crafted music and dance performance that adds to the enjoyment.
The songs that accompanied the performance were wonderfully performed and the humour generously placed but, the extravagance of this seemed to slightly overshadow the actual plot. In fact, so much so, that had I not read the programme beforehand, I may have known little of what was happening until (this being generous) Act Two. The focus seemed to lay more in the song and dance of each scene, rather than the overall plot. As a consequence of this, much of what I felt should have been the main part of the play, was crammed into the latter part of the second Act, which made it seem extremely rushed and clumsy. I felt confused at more than one point during the performance, and though I enjoyed the music and dancing, I was left feeling unconvinced of its relevance.
Nonetheless, there are some honourable mentions amongst the cast. The first, is Andrea Ferguson (playing Sukie Rougemont), who I felt portrayed her character well and with such ease, as well as being one of the more believable characters within the production. In addition, some honourable voice mentions go to Claire Reynolds Chandler (playing Alexandra Spofford) and Isabelle Anderson (playing Jennifer Gabriel), who delivered both beautiful and powerful performances. A mention also must be made concerning the on stage chemistry between the three main characters, that being, Chandler, White and Ferguson. When they were interacting as characters was when the play flowed the best, each bouncing off the other to deliver a realistic and strong performance.
Furthermore, I quite enjoyed the movement of the play visually. A great number of set changes and fast moving scenes kept me gripped visually. This also applied to the costume choices, that with bright and vivid colours captured the setting of the play; a small and picturesque suburban town.
Overall, I would consider The Witches of Eastwick to have been successful in terms of its casting and individual performance, however, this was sadly overshadowed by the lack of a strong story-line, which unfortunately left me feeling unsatisfied at points. However, I will not fault the clear dedication and talent present on the stage, and cannot help but feel as though the Norfolk & Norwich Operatic Society are clearly a group to watch out for in the future!
The Witches of Eastwick is being performed at Norwich Theatre Royal Jan 31-Feb 4