Even before the terrorist attacks in America, there were rumours that the show was in trouble. An article over the summer in the Evening Standard predicted that Witches, Notre Dame de Paris and The Beautiful Game were all on the verge of closure. Of those three, Witches is the last left standing. The Beautiful Game withdrew from the Cambridge Theatre on 1 September while Notre Dame bowed out of the Dominion this past weekend. Other major West End productions which have recently posted closing notices are Peggy Sue Got Married, Closer to Heaven and Feelgood.
The Witches of Eastwick - based on the John Updike novel and the 1987 Hollywood film about three bored New England witches who conjure up a lover - originally opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in July 2000. After transferring to the smaller Prince of Wales, the show received a major revamp which included the removal of the number "Who's the Man" and the addition of new lyrics for another song, "Loose Ends".
A revamped cast - led by Clarke Peters and his trio of girlfriends Josefina Gabrielle and Rebecca Thornhill and Olivier Award nominee Joanna Riding (who stayed on from the original cast) - officially re-opened the show on 17 July 2001 to a positive round of new reviews. At the time, Cameron Mackintosh acknowledged the foot and mouth-fuelled summer downturn in the West End and declared his intention to buck the trend of musical closures with the new-look Witches.
Commenting on today’s closure, Mackintosh said, “The plain fact is this that this year has not been good for new musicals. The whole industry has suffered from a dramatic decline in the tourist sector through much of this spring and summer, but I had hoped that the traditional October upswing in business would have enabled us to remain open into the New Year. However, the recent tragic events in America, with all their consequences, have served to make things even worse and so, reluctantly, I have had to take the decision to close the production in London.”
There are plans for other Witches productions, including an American tour prior to a Broadway opening late next year. Other productions are being prepared in Australia, Norway, Hungary and Japan.
The musical has book and lyrics by John Dempsey and Dana Rowe. It is directed by Eric Schaeffer, designed by Bob Crowley and choreographed by Bob Avian and Stephen Mear with orchestrations by William D Brohn, musical supervision by David Caddick, sound design by Andrew Bruce and lighting design by Howard Harrison.
The next production scheduled for the Prince of Wales Theatre has not yet been announced but there is speculation that it might be the Broadway hit musical, The Full Monty, based on the popular film but transplanted to an American setting.
- by Terri Paddock