The sorcerer's apprentice

Hexed in the City

Music by Neil Berg
Lyrics by Neil Berg and Tom Mills
Book by Tom Mills
Directed by Tom Mills
Musical direction by Galen Butler
Equity Showcase (closed)
Sonnet Repertory
Belt Theater
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Hexed in the City is a charming, if sometimes clichéd, new musical written by Neil Berg and Tom Mills. Overall, it is cute but quaint; it has some fine comical moments, and a few numbers are highlights, while others are superfluous or superficial.

The plot of Hexed in the City centers on a young witch, Jennifer (Vanessa Lemonides), and her quest for love. She hexes David Henderson (Graham Rowat) to fall in love with her after trying some methods from her human friend Kelly (Jennifer Lyon)'s romance novel and failing. But chaos ensues when David's fiancee, Elysia (Robyne Parrish), who also turns out to be a witch, attempts vengeance on them both.

The other subplots of the show include Phillip (Todd Loyd), the main warlord,'s failed forays into making a profit off his witchcraft. He almost reveals their existence to Jacobs (David Sabella), who works for a gossip magazine. The cast of characters is rounded out by Jennifer's crazy Nana (Verna Pierce) and her insightful boss, Miss Niles (Robin Irwin).

The book to the show moves briskly for the most part. There are some really funny jokes set up, and some of the one-liners are definite keepers. Its problems lie in the plot's inconsistency and perplexities. Some of Act Two's plot twists seemed to come out of nowhere; they should be set up better in Act One with a casual mention, at least. The rules of the witch world are confusing and in need of serious clarification. Otherwise, the show flows very nicely and is a good length.

The score fares a little worse. The music is tuneful and catchy at points, but it is very repetitive. There are far too many ballads in the first act; in fact almost the entire score is solo numbers or duets. More variety would be much appreciated. However, the jazzy and bluesy flair of the numbers is consistently good, and the harmonic progressions are sophisticated and interesting.

The lyrics, on the other hand, range from mediocre to cheesy cliché. There are a few good ones, but most of the lines are filled with near or forced rhymes. Overall, most of the time the songs fail to forward the plot -- in fact some of the songs could be excised completely without any sign there was a song in the first place. Furthermore, some of the songs are confusing in their meaning, and it is sometimes completely unclear what the song's point was.

The cast was totally top-notch. Most of the girls got to belt their voices off, and in that sense, the score was very entertaining. Vanessa Lemonides performed her numerous ballads with adept skill. Also, Robyne Parrish and Robin Irwin blew the house away with their powerful numbers. Irwin got an ostentatious, if superfluous, number about a trombone, which succeeded in stopping the show.

The direction by Tom Mills was well-paced and fluent. Mills has a great sense of how to move and present a scene. Since this was a workshop production, there were minimal sets, costumes, props, etc. But there were beautiful dolls made of most of the cast by Kelly Pusz that were worth a mention.

Thus, Hexed in the City has a cute concept and much good material. The cast made the show enjoyable even if there are many things that need to be fixed. With some fine-tuning of the plot, and some songs that develop it as well as its characters, Hexed in the City could one day truly put the audience under a spell.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Performing: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Seth Bisen-Hersh