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The Witches of Eastwick, Trinity Musical Theatre, Mill Theatre, Sedgley - review

Dudley | Entertainment | Published:

It's a brave amateur company who, in its 80th year, makes the leap from light opera into the world of musical theatre - and an even braver one who chooses the raunchy romp The Witches of Eastwick for their first show in this new theatrical genre.

But Trinity Musical Theatre, formerly Trinity Operatic Society, has done exactly that.

This company is well known for presenting the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and the like, but this year has been completely revamped and re-launched under their new name and style of performance. And good on them I say! In the world of theatre it is essential to keep moving forward and embrace every opportunity which comes your way and Trinity have certainly done that too - with knobs on!

It's a fairly simple tale. Three female protagonists, who are bored and frustrated with their mundane little lives, conjure up their ideal man without really thinking of the consequences. Their wishes are granted when, as if by magic, along comes a handsome, charismatic stranger called Darryl Van Horne, who is set on shocking the local townsfolk and rocking the world of the sleepy backwater of Eastwick.

One by one he unlocks the ladies' feminine powers, until the gossip surrounding their unorthodox lifestyles and outrageous behaviour reaches fever pitch in the town. But as Darryl's influence becomes more sinister, the "witches" realised they must join forces to remove him from their lives altogether.

Trinity is obviously a close-knit group of performers, despite the fact that many new members have joined for this show and that feeling of community certainly comes across the flood-lights as they work their way through the large, demanding ensemble numbers, including Dirty Laundry, Dance with the Devil and Eastwick Knows, which are integral to the storyline of "Witches" (as the show is affectionately known.)

With three leading ladies vying for attention in this show, it could have been the survival of the fittest, but not so. The roles are played to perfection by Phaedra Brickwood (Jane Smart), Beth Berwick-Lowe (Sukie Rugemont) and Maggie Page (Alexandra Spofford) and their respect and support for each other as performers is evident from the start.

There is absolutely no question why each and every one of these ladies were cast in their respective roles, as their vocal performances are outstanding and their harmonies to die for.

Fans of the movie version of Witches may be disappointed that the role of Alex is portrayed as the complete antithesis of Cher's performance, as Maggie Page offers a strong, but very different characterisation of her, but then this is Director Ashley-Miles Wilkes' interpretation of the show and no one else's.

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Phaedra Brickwood is perfectly cast as the down-trodden, easily influenced Jane, perfectly capturing her vulnerability, while Beth Berwick-Lowe certainly has the most melodious voice of the three and her solo performance of the difficult number, Words, Words, Words is executed with conviction and precision.

Of course the character of Daryl Van Horne requires an uninhibited performer of the utmost confidence and Mitch Bastable sure fits the bill in a performance which can only be described as wild and wicked!

I hated him on sight, which is actual a good thing if you think about it and continued to do so throughout the whole production. Seriously though, his strong vocal performance and larger than life persona completely fills the stage depicting the perfect devil in disguise. This is apparently his favourite musical theatre role and he certainly plays it with conviction.

David Ball and Emily Fisher were in fine voice and brought some finesse to the proceedings as Michael and Jennifer, the love struck couple whom Daryl forces apart and there is a cute portrayal of The Little Girl by Grace Lewis who played this character at this particular performance. She shares the role with another very cute little girl, Freya Poulton from Willenhall.

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For me the show lacked strength of choreography, although I would hope this could be improved upon as the company progresses and at times due to the limited number of male performers in the ensemble, the numbers were vocally female dominated and so some of the wonderful harmony lines were lost, but again nothing that cannot be enhances as the group grows.

On the downside, the adult nature of this show is something that a company of amateur performers either has to embrace entirely or steer away from completely - and Trinity MTC has certainly chosen the former.

The partial nudity and suggestive costumes are something to be aware of before going along to see Witches and at times, in my opinion, it all felt and looked rather uncomfortable and, in certain scenes, was completely unnecessary. Often less is more and subtle suggestion, again in my opinion, would have been far more provocative than the somewhat sleazy attempts at titillation.

On a more positive note, the orchestra under the excellent direction of Karl Babarczi gave a rousing performance of the Witches score, soaring through the ballads Something, Make Him Mine and I Wish I May and then bursting with energy throughout The Glory of Me and the finale.

All in all, one hell of a show to begin their musical theatre career with and, love it or hate it, Trinity MTC's version of The Witches of Eastwick is certainly one I won't forget!

Runs at the Mill Theatre within Dormston Centre, Sedgley until Saturday.

By Alison Norton

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