Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review:’Bell, Book and Candle’ at the Chatham Playhouse

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Bell, Book and Candle, now playing at the Chatham Playhouse, is one of the more oddball versions of the ‘Boy meets Girl’ formula for a romantic comedy. You may have seen the film with Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak and Jack Lemon (1958 !), or the original Broadway play by playwright John Van Druten (I Remember Mama, I Am A Camera, The Voice of the Turtle, etc. It opened in 1950 with prime orchestra seats at less than $5.00!

The Chatham Community Players production features a pro-level cast (a bit of a norm for the CCPs) that includes Christine Talarico as Gillian Holroyd, Pierce V. Lo as Shepherd Henderson, Lisa Barnett as Aunt Queenie, Anthony Bentrovato as Nicky Holroyd and John A.C. Kennedy as Sidney Redlitch. The director is Elizabeth Rogers from West Orange. She has a distinguished theater career including founding artistic director for interACT productions.

bell bookThe play is set entirely in Gillian’s New York City apartment (four acts with two intermissions). The plot contains few surprises… again, the standard ‘boy meets girl’ formula, unless you think that Gillian and her family of witches and warlocks are not ordinary Manhattanites. We learn in the opening scene that Gillian possesses magical powers. She can beat Amazon’s Alexa with just a wave of her hand….lights on and off, doors open and closed, for example. Gillian’s big problem is that she is enamored with her upstairs tenant…a soon to be engaged young publisher, Shep Henderson….one major problem…witches are not supposed to be capable of love. Marriage impossible! As a witch, she has the power to make Shep love her…but is that kosher? She succumbs to the temptation, when she learns the identity of Shep’s fiancée. Quickly she regrets winning his love via a spell. The who and why will not be revealed here. Nor will we ruin the fun when you journey to the playhouse for either of the final two weekend performances (Friday and Saturday at 8 pm).

Christine Talarico (photo above right) is properly magical as Gillian Holroyd. She is a petite, attractive young lady AND a fine actress who we look forward to seeing more of. Pierce V. Lo is fine as Shepherd Henderson, the publisher who’s life is dramatically changed (what else would it be?) when he comes under Gillian’s supernatural spell. Anthony Bentrovato impresses as warlock Nicky Holroyd. He is a natural actor who moves effortlessly through the play.

Two veteran actors round out the cast: John A.C. Kennedy has a fun turn as Sidney Redlitch, who is writing a book about the witches and warlocks of Manhattan. Last, is the most spot-on member of the cast…Lisa Barnett as Aunt Queenie. Talk about a ‘fun turn’….she is a pure delight as the befuddled witch aunt. No scene drags with her on stage. That is in reference to the play’s pacing that could benefit from a boost in several places. But maybe it is because the direction of the thin plot is so obvious.

The photo below includes: Seated-Christine Talarico & Lisa Barnett; standing- Pierce V. Lo & Anthony Bentrovato

bell castRegardless, this is a first rate production that maintains the high standard we have come to expect at the Chatham Playhouse. If you are up for a fluffy romantic comedy with an excellent cast, this production will not disappoint.

The production credits: Producer Steffi Denmark, Production Coordinator Andrea Sickler, Scenic Designer Bob Lukasik, Stage Manager George Seylaz, Scenic Painting Andrea Sickler, Costume Designer Fran Harrison, Lighting Designer Nicholas Marmo and special mention is in order for the excellent music composed and performed by the Sound Designer, Joe DeVico.

The two remaining dates are May 19 and 20 at 8 pm. The Chatham Playhouse is at 23 North Passaic Avenue, in Chatham. Tickets are $25 for adults and $23 for youth/senior.

Tickets can be purchased at our Box Office or Online. To access the theater’s new online ticketing service, where you can now reserve your particular seat, simply go to The service is available 24 hours a day, and tickets can be purchased online up until three hours prior to curtain on the day of a performance.

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