Witches’ brew a bit strong

"Birkdale Musical Theatre Company production of The Witches of Eastwick. Southport Little Theatre, October 2014."

"Birkdale Musical Theatre Company production of The Witches of Eastwick. Southport Little Theatre, October 2014."

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A spectacular production but RON ELLIS finds the line between sauce and smut is crossed, and often

Witches of Eastwick is a musical adapted from the novel by John Updike. It had a limited run when in the West End in 2000 but has never made it to Broadway, despite several rewrites.

The tale is set in smalltown America, New Hampshire, where ‘ladies who lunch’ are intrigued by a new arrival by the name of Daryl Van Horne, a rake with a lascivious leer and evil intentions.

Van Horne is, in fact, The Devil in disguise and quickly sets about seducing three local ladies looking for a little excitement in their lives.

With chat-up lines that’d make most women run a mile, one by one he runs his hands over them and persuades them to strip until all end up in bed with him in a scene reminiscent of soft porn.

There is a line between saucy double-entendre (George Formby’s ‘Little Stick of Blackpool Rock’ springs to mind) and smut, and I feel a man making copulatory movements with a violin between his legs has crossed it.

It seems surprising that in the current moral climate, a show glorifying all the things 70s celebrities are currently being arrested for should be hailed as ‘musical comedy’.

Having said that, nothing bad can be said about the production which was a big undertaking for any amateur society but one which the Birkdale Orpheus, under Liz Clarke’s excellent direction, presented spectacularly well.

Jonny Sheldon as The Devil was outstanding, as polished as any professional in the West End, while Karen Parkinson, Lisa Proctor and Heather Lewis perfectly showed how these middle-aged women became sultry temptresses under his spell.

Becca Molyneux had the unpleasant role of a busy-body made to vomit feathers in a scene I presume was meant to be humorous but which was not.

The music by an excellent 10-piece orchestra, under MD Charles Ross, kept the rhythm going through 18 upbeat numbers, and Mary Forbes was in charge of choreography; some really fast routines, dancers showing more energy than you see at a Northern Soul weekender.

Alan Gosling and his team created a magnificent set, the highlight being the three witches flying dramatically through the air.

Just a pity about the plot, which was more suited to a seedy Soho dive.

Ron Ellis