Wednesday, July 4, 2007

We're Off to See the Witches

In April, someone commented on the Where Are They Now blog entry I wrote about Clay Jackson, a former Theatre IV touring actor who was named the new Maytag Repairman. “If you're going to do a Where Are They Now column, why not do one on Emily Skinner?” the anonymous commenter asked. “I LOVED her when she used to act in Richmond with you guys, and I haven't heard much from her since her Tony nomination for Side Show.”

Well, it may have taken me three months, but I’m proud to offer a little on Emily’s latest project, and state with considerable excitement that Phil and Donna Whiteway, my wife Terrie and I will all be going up a week from Saturday to see Emily on stage.

Emily is currently starring in the American Premiere of The Witches of Eastwick at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. Signature is a terrific regional theatre led by Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer. In addition to being a nationally acclaimed Sondheim specialist, Schaeffer is a stage director with a considerable international reputation. He was Artistic Director for the Sondheim Festival at the Kennedy Center a few seasons back, and directed the World Premiere of The Witches of Eastwick on London’s West End in 2000.

Based on the novel by John Updike and the Warner Bros. motion picture that starred Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer, The Witches of Eastwick features book and lyrics by John Dempsey and music by Dana Rowe. Dempsey describes the plot as follows: “In the tiny New England town of Eastwick, Rhode Island, three modern day witches innocently plot and conjure over a heady brew of weak martinis and peanut butter brownies. But when their longings are made flesh in the arrival of one Darryl Van Horne, all hell breaks lose. Quite literally.”

Emily’s co-stars at Signature are Christiane Noll and Jacquelyn Piro Donovan as the other titular witches, and acclaimed Broadway leading man Marc Kudisch as Darryl Van Horne.

The reviews have been very favorable. “Witches of Eastwick spells wicked fun … carnally enjoyable,” states The Washington Post. “A funny and enjoyable show with obvious audience appeal and a laudable ability to laugh at itself,” adds Variety. “It definitely gets an A for attitude.”

The Witches of Eastwick is a bewitching musical,” continues the Baltimore Sun. “An exuberant production” was the descriptive phrase used by the Arlington Sun Gazette.

Emily herself has received unanimous praise.

Among those few Richmond actors who have gone on to national success, Emily and Blair Underwood are certainly the two who have gone the farthest. In Richmond, she appeared in numerous shows at Theatre IV, Swift Creek Mill and, to a lesser extent, TheatreVirginia, throughout her teens and twenties. She spent her college years in Carnegie Mellon’s prestigious theatre program (as did Underwood, by the way, and as does Zak Resnick, now appearing in Into the Woods), and she achieved almost immediate success in New York, culminating in her Tony- nominated leading performance in Side Show.

I’ve enjoyed Emily in every show I’ve ever seen her in, from her earliest work as a high schooler through her recent performance as Gooch in Mame at the Kennedy Center. She is one of America’s treasures, and I can hardly wait to see her in Witches.

Best of all, Emily continues to be as gracious and down to earth as she’s always been. We hope you'll continue to keep your eye on Emily. We certainly will. She’s truly one of our nation’s great musical theatre stars, and every Richmond theatregoer should be enormously proud of this exceptionally talented home town girl made good.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Le Synge Bleu said...

Emily's sister Eliza is also an incredibly talented performer who is enjoying much success in New York and is scheduled for a run of her very successful one woman show Eliza Skinner is Shameless in LA later this year, as well as touring with her musical comedy improv group I Eat Pandas and currently performing in Jem and the Holograms at UCB. (More info at