Groton Regional Theatre presents "Bell, Book, and Candle"

Felia Williams, right, stars in Groton Regional Theatre's 'Bell, Book, and Candle' with Helen Cronin. (Kato McNickle)
Felia Williams, right, stars in Groton Regional Theatre's "Bell, Book, and Candle" with Helen Cronin. (Kato McNickle)

Director Meagan Lamb recounts trying to figure out who or what would play in for the character of Pyewacket the cat in the Groton Regional Theatre’s rendition of “Bell, Book, and Candle” this month at the Groton Senior Center.

“We tried auditioning live cats. It didn’t go well. It was a little messy and sketchy,” Lamb says with a laugh. “Basically, for one audition, we ended up having a terrified cat running around the Senior Center. So, we knew that couldn’t work out.”

The solution? Lamb and her cast are using a cat on loan from the Goodspeed Opera House prop closet.

“That was definitely a better option,” Lamb says, referring to the Siamese feline familiar to main character Gillian, who will be played by Felia Williams.

The story, which melds perfectly with the month of October, lightheartedly combines the everyday with the supernatural in a bewitching playful comedy. Gillian, a restless young witch who lives in modern-day Greenwich Village, has lived her entire life among a community of witches. She yearns for a shred of normalcy in her life and devises a magical plan to deliver exactly that. While setting a love spell on a clueless young man named Shepherd (played by Evan Brown), Gillian finds herself, too, falling for him. But that presents a problem. Gillian will lose her magical powers if she falls in love.

“Really, this is a great play for the Halloween season because it’s about the supernatural. It’s really a fun show for this time of year,” says Lamb, who has been working with GRT since 2014 and is directing her first show without a co-director with “Bell, Book, and Candle.”

The production will run every Friday through Sunday through the month of October. The show’s first performance will commence after 6:30 p.m. Friday. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Groton Senior Center, with the rest going to the Groton Regional Theatre.

The show, which was originally written in 1950 by the English playwright John Van Druten, was made into a film in 1958 starring James Stewart and Kim Novak. The movie, which Lamb describes as a “cute rom-com,” may not be necessarily remembered for its stellar acting. The character of Gillian, in particular, was described by the New York Times in 1958 to look “a lot more convincing than she acts.” The film is rather remembered for being produced in Technicolor and, in general, stands out for the use of color throughout the film.

“I personally felt that the lead character, Gillian, wasn’t necessarily depicted in the way I imagined her after reading the play. We wanted to highlight the fact that, even though she is a witch, she is not just a witch, but is a person with their own range of inner conflict going on,” Lamb says.

Part of the conflict, she says, revolves around her self-identity as a witch. Ironically, Gillian deploys her magical powers as a way to help her step away from her life of magic — a conflict of interest, Lamb explains.

“That particular transition in the character was really interesting, and I wanted to ensure that it could be seen through the set on stage,” Lamb says. “You can see this shift reflected in everything, including her language, body language, clothing and even in her apartment décor.”

The décor, in fact, has also been changed in this rendition, diverging from the fashionable backdrop of mid-century Manhattan where the story was originally set.

“We’ve brought the show into modern-day times, even though there are a lot of stylistic points that would have worked better if we kept it in the ’50s. But I think it’s more fun to have her be this modern-day witch who is trying to navigate her life and her experiences in this era,” Lamb says.

As an ode to the original film, Lamb will also use colors to represent the personalities of her characters and their inner transitions.

“I chose specific color schemes for specific people. Shepherd is mostly wearing brown, dullish colors because he is, like, the boring human. Gillian starts off in a lot of black because witchcraft is her entire life. As we move further into the play that loosens … Sidney, for example, is in a faded green and brown color scheme because he is a human who is fascinated by witchcraft. So, his colors, like him, are still muted. But he is someone who is closer to the edge in being more interested in witchcraft,” Lamb says.

“Really, the modern-day set is not overly stated. It’s mostly just the appearance of everything that’s different from the film. The clothing style and the décor of the apartment are fun. It’s something more like ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch.’”

m.biekert@theday.com

 

Evan Brown and Felia Williams rehearse 'Bell, Book, and Candle.' (Kato McNickle)
Evan Brown and Felia Williams rehearse "Bell, Book, and Candle." (Kato McNickle)
Evan Brown and Felia Williams in 'Bell, Book, and Candle.' (Kato McNickle)
Evan Brown and Felia Williams in "Bell, Book, and Candle." (Kato McNickle)

If you go

WHAT: “Bell, Book, and Candle”

WHEN: Performances are October 13-15, 20-22, and 27-29.

Friday night shows are served with dinner at 6:30 p.m. $22. Must be reserved two days in advance.

All other shows are without a meal. Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. $12 for seniors or in advance, $15 general admission at the door.

WHERE: Groton Senior Center, 102 Newtown Road, Groton.

WEBSITE: www.grotontheatre.org

FRIDAY NIGHT MENUS:

October 13th: “Sorceress stew” beef stew, tossed salad & toppings, buttermilk biscuits, apple dumplings, beverage, coffee

October 20th: “Spell binding” baked salmon w/ maple pecan topping, twice baked potato, string bean medley, rolls, lemon meringue pie, beverage, coffee

October 27th: “True love” baked cornish hen, wild rice, gravy, corn, rolls, brown butter bourbon bars, beverage, coffee

 

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