Jewel Box Theatre's 'Bell, Book and Candle' burns brightly with charm, style

n Holroyd, and her family of enchanters, comprised of her wayward trickster brother, Nicky, and their irrepressible but well-meaning Aunt Queenie.

The story kicks off when Gillian's neighbor, publisher Shepherd Henderson, drops by to discuss finding Queenie in his apartment on two separate occasions. Gillian's passing interest in Shep accelerates when she discovers that he's engaged to an old college rival of Gillian's, leading her to cast a love spell on him, the consequences of which unfold over the course of the play.

The cast is great across the board. Hell, even the cat playing Pyewacket, Gillian's familiar, was good. Mandy O'Neal plays Gillian a little stiff at first, but her character work contrasts well against a more vulnerable performance in Act 2. She's funny, imposing and, in the end, even sympathetic.

She's also great at playing romantic and has palpable comedic chemistry with costar Wil Rogers. As Shep, Rogers has the thankless job of playing the straight man to a pretty kooky cast of characters, but he does a good job of finding the humor in situations and helps to ground the play.

As Gillian's scheming brother, Jerrad Allbritton has a lot of fun in a role that plays to his strengths. Along with O'Neal, the pair succeeds in bringing to life their magical sibling rivalry with spells and counter-spells, not to mention lots of great verbal sniping.

Mike Gonzales turns in a memorable and very funny supporting performance as in-over-his-head author Sidney Redlitch, and Vicki Wilcox is just a delight in the role of the quirky and irresponsible Aunt Queenie.

Gillian's swanky, 1950s apartment is one the most elegant and fun Jewel Box sets in recent memory, filled with some great furniture and props. Charlotte Rose's costumes are excellent, but Queenie's ornate and over-the-top vintage outfits in particular deserve special praise.

Originally staged on Broadway in 1950, "Candle" has aged very well, due in no small part to John Van Druten's smart writing. In the hands of such a confident and capable cast and crew, you should let "Bell, Book, and Candle" cast a spell on you.

Bell, Book and Candle stages at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 6 at Jewel Box Theatre at First Christian Church, 3700 N. Walker.

"?Eric Webb

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