Teens and Theatre Company capture the magic of Bell, Book, and Candle—with humor and strong tech
All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.
The Holroyds are like any other family; they have their quirks, problems, fun times, and, oh yes, the ability to cast magical spells. When an innocent love bewitchment sends their world spinning, mischief and comedy abound in Teens and Theatre Company’s production of Bell, Book, and Candle.
Written by John van Druten in 1950, Bell, Book, and Candle had a short run on Broadway for 233 performances, and was later adapted into a successful film in 1958, starring James Stewart and Kim Novak. While widely speculated to draw parallels between witch hunting and the 1950s McCarthyism and blacklisting of communists, the play also evokes similar situations of homosexual actors during the same time period-- sexuality that was forced to be hidden by societal pressures. The story itself chronicles the Holroyds, a family of witches and warlocks. When a new neighbor, Shepard Henderson, enters their lives and Gillian Holroyd finds out that he is betrothed to her college nemesis, Merle Kittridge, she casts a spell to win his love for herself. Later, Gillian realizes that she truly has feelings for him when she loses her magical powers, a sign that a witch has fallen in love.
Katie Puschel as the show’s female lead, Gillian Holroyd, carried herself uprightly, matching her character’s mature aura. Showcasing a wide range of emotions, Puschel handled both humorous and dramatic climaxes commendably. Opposite Puschel was Jakob Sudberry as Shepard Henderson. Sudberry thoughtfully captured his character's skepticism and initial disbelief in the existence of witchcraft. The duo connected convincingly together, yet showed their anger and confusion towards each other when the truth is revealed about the bizarre circumstances of their relationship.
With a spring in his step, Gus Hebner portrayed Gillian’s zany brother, Nicky Holroyd, with skillful comedic timing. Hebner’s suave, carefree attitude juxtaposed against Gillian’s rash, serious demeanor elicited many laughs from the audience and added dynamic range to each scene. From his wide-eyed stares to his wacky clothing, Hebner certainly stood out on stage with his whimsical persona. Regan Fraas added even more comical relief as Sidney Redlitch, a pompous, hot-shot author who is interested in the witchcraft that he believes is all around. Fraas believably portrayed a character of the opposite gender, and played off well to the other characters.
Costumes, designed and constructed by Katy Rinaman, were a technical highlight of the performance. Female dresses were cleanly cut, well-fitted to the actors, and added colorful variety to the show. Several vintage hats were procured and re-blocked to achieve their original shape. Sound and lighting cues were well-executed, for the most part, with no obvious issues. The elaborate set included full-sized couches, a 1950s beverage service, and a simulated fireplace. Special effects, such as flash paper and an animatronic cat, were also a highlight.
Despite some awkward character interactions, annunciation issues, and ‘flubbed’ lines, the cast maintained unwavering energy and enthusiasm.
Through a touching love story with a few humorous, unique twists woven in, the audience was certainly bewitched as the cast and crew whisked them away into a world full of magic, intrigue, and romance.