“Waiting for the music to begin”
Throughout this whirlwind tour of cast recordings, one of the more interesting things has been listening to shows that closed early, or at least relatively so. The Witches of Eastwick managed a 15 month run in 2000-1 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and then the Prince of Wales in a slightly revised version and I have to say that on the evidence of this original London cast recording, it deserved more.
Dana P Rowe’s score and John Dempsey’s lyrics captures much of the small-town mania of John Updike’s source novel and performed by a crack cast as it is here, it is often thrilling to listen to. Ian McShane may have been cast as the devilish Darryl but it is Joanna Riding, Maria Friedman and Lucie Arnaz as the titular triumvirate whose innate powers are unleashed by the nefarious influence of this charismatic stranger, with troubling results for both themselves and those around them – the harmonies that accompany their joint numbers are just scintillating.
Each woman gets, and takes, their individual moment to shine – Friedman is magisterial on the comic track ‘Words, Words, Words’ and Riding unleashes great skill in ‘Waiting for the Music to Begin’ – but it’s the cumulative power of their voices that really stands out. The opening ‘Make Him Mine’, act 1 closer ‘I Wish I May’, the finale ‘Look at Me’, each climactic occasion punctuated with some stellar vocal work and a pleasing tunefulness too. I’ve only seen the show once, at the Watermill back in 2013, but enough of it had sunk in for me to be able to hum along to quite a few of the songs.
With a brilliant supporting turn from Rosie Ashe as the main object of their ire – her ‘Dirty Laundry’ is an instant classic – and solid support from McShane, and also from the sweet-voiced Peter Jöback and Caroline Sheen as love’s young dream, it is a very solid record. Interestingly (for me at least) I wasn’t mad keen on the show after seeing it the first time but having listened to this cast recording, I’m more than ready to give it another go.