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Previews: 10/11/13- Close: 10/26/13 Bell, Book, & Candle
Reviewed for TheaterOnline.com By: Ashley Griffin

  

“Bell, Book and Candle” is truly a bewitching comedy. Originally a Broadway play, it was made into a film in 1958 starring Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon. Unsurprisingly it was one of the influences of the hit TV show “Bewitched” – indeed it feels like “Bewitched” begins right where “Bell, Book and Candle” leaves off.

The story follows the Holroyd family who live in NYC, and are honest to goodness witches. Miss Holroyd (Bairbre Dowling), the mother, is a not quite so cunning Endora with two grown children – whimsical and smart Nicky (Guy Olivieri), and Gillian (Kate Middleton). Gillian is the central character – an incredibly talented witch who is the landlady of the apartment building where Shepherd Henderson (Brett Bolton) resides. Partly out of attraction, and partly out of petty revenge against a former schoolmate who now happens to be engaged to Mr. Henderson, Gillian puts him under a love spell – a spell that becomes a potential problem when Gillian starts honestly falling in love with Mr. Henderson, a situation complicated by the fact that if a witch falls in love, she loses her powers. Into the mix comes Sidney Redlitch (Rob Maitner) – a completely out of his depth writer whose specialty is “exposing” the world of witchcraft he has no actual knowledge of, and, oh yes, a real live cat called Pyewacket (played by the beautiful, and shockingly calm Dr. Watson.)

  

The Ground Up Productions production of “Bell, Book and Candle” is completely charming. The actors are lovely, and the direction by Phillip Ruvelas is clean, clear, and very engaging. The artists are served by the fantastic source material, and rise to meet it. Although they make wonderful use of the space available at the Gene Frankle (Travis McHale’s set design perfectly recalls the Doris Day esque ‘50’s comedy, Amanda Jenks’s costumes are lovely, Rachel Gilmores’s lighting and Chris Schardin’s sound design are simple, and very effective) this production is well deserving of a much larger space, and longer run. Guy Oliveri is to be commended for his casting work – the whole company wonderfully embody the 1950’s comedy style while maintaining organic, funny, and at times quite moving performances. Special props must go to Kate Middleton – who is the rock of the show as Gillian Holroyd, who must make us care for, and empathize with a woman who does some rather unsympathetic things, and Guy Olivieri as Nicky Holroyd who remarkably encapsulates the heart of Jack Lemmon’s wonderful performance. Nicky must be funny, lovable, and even potentially threatening. And Mr. Olivieri does so quite successfully.

Ground Up Productions has done a wonderful job. Check out this wonderful company, and, if you’re not familiar with it, check out the fantastic “Bell, Book and Candle.”

Venue:
Gene Frankel Theater : 24 Bond Street