By GEORGETTE SPELVIN
This is being written on the last night of the hurricane-abbreviated run of “The Witches of Eastwick” at the Henegar. Revive it, Hank Rion. Bring this show back for a return engagement. It is that good.
The musical, written by John Dempsey (lyrics and book) and Dana P. Rowe (music), is based on the 1987 movie which was based on the 1984 John Updike novel. Set in an uptight New England town, it surrounds three dissatisfied women who unwittingly conjure up a charismatic devilish man to add some spice to their life.
This is the musical that sends you off to some local restaurant to go over the whole thing again because it is worth talking about. This is the musical to which you can point and say, “See? Everything doesn’t always have to be the same.” This is the musical to which you bring your stage-snob friends who are oh-so-certain local theater just can’t stack up.
Everything about the Henegar’s hugely funny and frequently thoughtful “Eastwick” excelled, from the direction to the sets to the lighting to the music. And then there is the cast.
As the slimy antihero Darryl (sounds a lot like “devil”) Van Horne (“horn,” get it?) Damon Dennin had a tour de force, a role terrifically sung, danced and acted, with gestures and expressions so right-on that Dennin could have mimed the thing and gotten the standing O. He was tireless.
It simply was a breathtaking performance in every respect; a masterpiece. Damon, three weeks ago, I asked you about your ambitions. Now I’m asking you to stick around.
Same with Darryl’s coven of small-town witches, SarahBeth Dawson (Sukie Rougemont), Beth McKenzie (Alex Spofford) and MC Wouters (Jane Smart): These women can act and can sing . . . good God, can they harmonize. This is not a trio of emoter-belters, but truly expressive actor-singers.
And then there was Henegar’s resident show thief, Shane Frampton, who again is comically brilliant, this time as the smug, self-appointed First Woman of Eastwick, Felicia Gabriel. Imagine what Frampton will do the day she is given a role that is vaguely like the actual Shane Frampton? Here, she is outstanding, again.
The other great scene-stealers in this show are Karis Assam as Claire, the sweet little girl who is the devil’s helper, and Anthony Guastella, his silent but comic manservant Fidel.
Everyone else is great too, just terrific, including the newspaper guy who lost his voice toward the end of the run (take a bow, Rob Landers/Clyde Gabriel) and the frequent newspaper quotee who gave up finish lines for chorus lines (raise your arms, Meg Campbell/Mabel Ogden).And then there was director/artistic director Hank Rion, who made Henegar one of very few community theaters in this country (what, three?) ever to have produced “Eastwick” and added to Henegar’s considerable luster by having done so.
Not one bone in the man’s body is not brave, and he proved it again here, first showing up to visit the cast on opening night, right after his first operation for thyroid cancer, and then on its last day, following the second one, to speak to the audience.
Hank, you not only make us delighted to have seen “The Witches of Eastwick,” you make us proud of theater in Brevard County. You could not have done better. You could not be better.
Now revive your show. We’ll come back for an encore performance.
SIDE O’ GRITS: He who hesitates…. But check with the Henegar for more shows by visiting Henegar.org or clicking onto their ad.