BWW Reviews: Sassy, Sexy, WITCHES OF EASTWICK at Ogunquit Playhouse

There are hot, sassy witches flying about the Ogunquit Playhouse in a production of The Witches of Eastwick, a musical comedy that has some memorable characters, high energy music and a fabulous set design.

The Ogunquit Playhouse has been selected by Cameron Mackintosh (Producer of Cats, LES MISERABLES, The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Oliver!, Mary Poppins, etc.) to be the American Northeast premiere of this stage adaptation based on the Warner Brothers hit motion picture starring Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Cher. This is big time stuff for the Ogunquit based theater that continues to rock the theater world in the breadth of their achievements.

Sulking about their woeful lives as divorcees, three small town New England women wish for the man of their dreams. Sukie Rougemont (Nancy Anderson) is a bookworm who occasionally stutters and has a shy awkwardness about her. Jane Smart (Mamie Parris) wears wide framed glasses, plays the cello and dresses like a repressed librarian. Alexandra Spofford (Sara Gettelfinger) is a Bohemian artist, tall and sultry, exuding sexuality simply by the way she walks on stage and sips martinis.

The three ladies confess their longing for the ideal man in a rollicking prayerful number, "Make Him Mine." Their wishes come true when Darryl Van Horne (James Barbour), the devil himself, arrives to stir up trouble in their Rhode Island village town. He singlehandedly seduces each of the divorcees in what ultimately becomes a "ménage a quatre." And if that isn't enough to feed the small town gossip mill (wonderfully captured in the number "Dirty Laundry"), the devil's plans for restoring an historic mansion are threatened by civic leader and environmentalist, Felicia Gabriel (Ogunquit favorite and TV show icon, Sally Struthers).

The hell on earth that unfolds is oftentimes crude and crass but usually done in a delightfully delicious way with a musical number to move the action along.

Barbour is everything you'd want in a musical comedy devil. He has good looks, has a rough around the edges bad boy quality, and he's a loveable villain. He's quick on the one liners and particularly entertaining in numbers, "Dance With the Devil" where he gives manliness lessons to the wimpy guys in town and "The Glory of Me," a hand clapping, gospel tune that, believe it or not, praises the virtues of Satan.

And the three witches are everything you'd want in musical comedy witches. They are sexy, brassy and stunningly beautiful with voices that need no amplification. In true ensemble fashion, they let each other shine individually while blending beautifully in their group numbers. Anderson, Parris and Gettelfinger create magic on the Ogunquit stage.

As for Sally Struthers, well...she's Sally Struthers. As I've said in other reviews, I never knew that she was such a stage performer so skilled in comic moments using every nuance possible to capture a scene and, of course, the audience.

The music was wonderfully diverse from soulful ballads, to foot stomping tunes, to mindless fluff pieces that are expected in musical comedy. It was a treat to see composer, Dana P. Rowe, sitting in the opening night audience.

The orchestra was as bold and brassy as the onstage characters and the set design was especially creative in making so many venues in Eastwick, Rhode Island come to life.

There are only two things that troubled me in this production.

The three women become witches in one scene at the end of the first act in what can only be described as the worst kept surprise ever of what is about to happen on stage. The three sit on a sofa center stage with flying harnesses obviously dangling above them. (Unlike the unexpected magic of the stage flying in Ogunquit's last production, Mary Poppins, this one falls flat.) You know they are going to be hoisted into the air at some point, but since it is so obvious for such a long time, it is lackluster when it does happen.

I also hoped for a stronger ending to the show. After trying to tie up many varied and loose ends in the plot, the show seemed to end abruptly. The witches seek their revenge on Satan, complete their mission, sing a rather weak final number, and then end the performance with a cute sight gag. I hoped for more, but it wasn't there.

The Witches of Eastwick will never be one of the classics of musical theater, but it is still good light hearted entertainment especially for a stage production adapted from a movie. And at a time of the year when most summer theaters have gone dark for the season, the Ogunquit Playhouse is still a great place to see a show in September.

Photos provided by Ogunquit Playhouse

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From This Author Dan Marois