HARPENDEN LIGHT OPERATIC SOCIETY “THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK”
Director: John Hebden MD: Graham Thomson
Choreographer: Chris Cumming Public Halls, Harpenden 9/10/14
I loved the show – it was slightly risqué, with good technicals and costumes, and a super cast. A challenge to HLOS both musically and in the subject matter, but one which seemed to work in that it appears to have attracted a younger audience, as well as the stalwarts.
Director John Hebden has such a fertile mind, and doesn’t mind being a bit OTT, or bringing out the humour and irreverence, which the cast buys in to, thus making it both exciting for the cast and for the audience.
The set was beautifully conceived – and worked well, with the different levels, banners being drawn across, and props being moved in and out to show the different houses, park etc. It all seemed to work really well and the cast navigated the set with ease.
The flying scene was very accomplished, and I appreciate the work required behind the scenes operating the pullies to keep those ladies flying. It was a shame the illusion was somewhat negated by the audience being able to see the harnesses as the two outside ladies turned to the side. But don’t think anything could have been done about it – and I would have liked to have seen the scene going on for a little longer – to make more use of the equipment, which I’m sure was quite expensive!
The costumes were excellent throughout – worn with style, and some very good-looking if slightly extravagant wigs. I thought the colour combinations were also very good. The only costume I wasn’t sure about was Alex’s trousers and top – as she made a comment about Darryl wearing the pants – but she was wearing them as well – so it wasn’t quite in context.
Lighting, designed by Steve Bates gave us some lovely effects, the fade for Make Him Mine was beautiful and created a super atmosphere. Overall the lighting helped create the different feelings felt by the ladies and Darryl.
Graham Thomson had a very good-sounding band – a little loud at times, but the sound balance is so difficult to get right in the Halls – in the main it was good though, and Graham had obviously worked hard with the cast to get the lovely sounds they produced, as it was not an easy sing.
The three main principal ladies Sarah Nasmyth-Miller (Alex), Anna MacDonald (Suki) and Georgina Dalton (Jane) obviously had a chemistry between them – as they interacted so well – and there were some lovely harmonies in their musical numbers. I am not familiar with Anna, but I know Sarah and Georgina from previous shows, and the improvement in their whole performance was very marked, with Georgina showing a new vocal achievement which was so good to hear. There was the odd occasion when I felt Anna particularly did not react to Darryl enough, but this was only fleeting. Georgina in particular got the really raunchy relationship and wasn’t afraid to go for it. Sarah was perhaps a little more reserved in her relationship with Darryl, but has a deep rich singing voice that made up for any lack of response feeling there may have been – but these are only a small part of the whole which was so good.
Terry Cavender always gives a good performance – and this was no exception – Darryl Van Horne is the incarnation of the devil in more ways than one – and it was good to see the way he unravelled at the end. I loved his seduction of the three ladies – all slightly different, but I’m sure he got enjoyment out of playing a devilish character, which came over to the audience, and although the character’s take on life and women was wrong on so many levels, in a way you could buy into it!!
The revelation for me in this piece was Tom Pigram as Michael. He is only young, but he already has matinee idol good looks, and is an accomplished dancer. There were a couple of times when I thought the band were a little loud when he was singing with Jennifer, but overall he made a big impression, and I look forward to seeing Tom in many more and different roles.
Chloe Brown as Jennifer was a good foil to Tom, and really came into her own when she morphed into the type of girl Darryl thought would be good for him - Chloe showed the younger side of Jennifer when with Tom, and the very grown up side when with Terry, and she also sang very well.
I loved Mary Watkinson’s take on Felicia, a good character role for this accomplished lady, although again the band were a little too loud at the start of her Evil number, but this was turned down and the balance became better. Mary was able to get her teeth into the part, and always gives a sterling performance which has been well thought out.
Steve Hathaway as her husband Cllyde coped well with the part, appearing to be in an alcoholic haze most of the time, well who wouldn’t be with that harridan as a wife!!
Adam Briffet was so good as Parson Parsley – not too evident in the early scenes, but he really made up for it at ther wedding, and his little dance was excellent – well done Adam – as they say, he really made the part his own. Louise Thonger as his wife Brenda, also gave plenty of punch and expression to a small but important part. A nice pairing.
I loved the Dance with the Devil number, good choreography, and Michael was very much out front and showing all he’d learned from Darryl!! The men of the chorus all entered into the spirit of the action, which was good to see.
Dirty Laundry was another really fun number – the ladies singing beautifully, whilst accomplishing some nifty moves – and the reprise showed how different a mood could be achieved. Very well done ladies – fairly simple but very effective.
I was a little concerned that there was one young lady in the ensemble who didn’t give as much effort as the rest of the ensemble, including the children (who interacted well with the rest of the cast) – everything she did was a little lack-lustre, which detracted from the energy of the rest of the cast, which was a shame.
The children were all very good, and expressive, I liked what they did.
Alana McKenna as Little Girl was good – she got the ethos of a small child along with the petulance and slyness, whilst singing beautifully – well-achieved.
Andrew Darby was a good example of someone with a small role, who was in the background for most of the time, but then delivered one excellent line with aplomb.
So all in all I was very impressed, and was so pleased that the show-choosing committee (of which I was part, along with Louise Thonger and Andrew Darby!) had chosen well, and that HLOS had faith in the choice too – exploiting it to its fullest extent with not only with fantastic direction, musical direction but also an enthusiastic and talented cast.
My thanks to Alastair, Steve and the front of house staff for their hospitality, I am always exceptionally well looked after at HLOS, which is appreciated.