Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Witches Of Eastwick

photo: Joan Marcus

The musical of John Updike's The Witches Of Eastwick - revamped for its American premiere at the Signature in Virginia - is the kind of not-so-guilty pleasure that can turn grown-up music theatre lovers into happy grinning idiots: it's bawdy, silly, bump and grind fun. Subtle and nuanced it ain't, as three New England divorcees unwittingly conjure up a horny devil as their dream man who turns out to be the Devil himself, but who's looking for subtlety from a ribald R-rated lampoon like this? Like Bye Bye Birdie, this show is all about the pelvis. The show's occassional breaks in the rhythm - a blandly overearnest subplot, just one or two songs that don't fly as well as the rest of the score - can't stop the undulating, irresistible beat. As the horndog Devil, Marc Kudisch's hip-thrusting, lip-licking, sex-on-legs performance manages to be as blatantly cocky and raunchy as it is funny and winning: the audience falls in love with him on sight. And the three actresses who play the witches of the title - Emily Skinner, Christiane Noll, and Jacquelyn Piro Donavan - are a formidable dream team: individually each is perfectly cast, and collectively the three have completely believable best friends chemistry and a heavenly blend of singing voices in their trio numbers (one of which ends with them flying up and out over the audience - sure beats Elphaba hoisted up behind a giant poncho, folks)

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