Mackintosh musical drawing critical praise

Following upbeat notices from some D.C. area legit critics, Signature Theater’s U.S. preem of the Cameron Mackintosh-produced musical “The Witches of Eastwick” has extended its engagement by one week, pushing the closing date to July 22.

The musical, based on the John Updike novel and the 1987 Warner Bros. film, made its initial debut in London in 2000, where it played to mixed reviews and unexceptional business. Following extensive revisions to add a darker edge, Mackintosh hopes the new incarnation will click with U.S. auds, perhaps propelling the production to New York or other regional dates.

Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks said the tuner made a “crowd-pleasing bow” on its June 15 opening thanks in large part to the “irresistible” performance of Marc Kudisch as Darryl Van Horne, the devilish interloper who shakes up a quiet New England town.

Marks also praised the “sprightly array of songs” from composer Dana P. Rowe and lyricist John Dempsey, as well as the performances of Emily Skinner, Christiane Noll and Jacquelyn Piro Donovan as the trio of women bewitched by Darryl. He also said director Eric Schaeffer imbues the show with personality.

The Baltimore Sun’s Mary Carole McCauley called the tuner “a smart, funny charmer,” and cited the “knockout cast of Broadway veterans” who “bring immense energy and joy to the production.” She was less enthused with Rowe’s melodies, some of which she called “bland.”

The Washington Times’ Jane Blanchard was more critical, calling the score “mediocre” and claiming that many of the numbers were “raunched-up ‘borrows’ from other musicals.” Blanchard also criticized the show’s “retro perspective” of women, and said the R-rated cheekiness is “fun for a while,” but “gets tired and desperate by the second act.”

Mackintosh currently is represented on Broadway by the revival of his 1980s monster hit, “Les Miserables,” and “Mary Poppins,” which he co-produced with Disney Theatricals.

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