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'Bell, Book and Candle': Bewitching

The revival of the 1950s play about a modern-day witch who tries to break up a romance comes to the Citrus County Art League today.

By JORGE SANCHEZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002


HERNANDO -- A romantic comedy with supernatural overtones, Bell Book and Candle sets out to prove the many ways in which love can bewitch someone.

The Citrus County Art League is reviving the play, made into a movie in 1958 with a great cast that included James Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs and Kim Novak. The play is about a witch who tries to break up a romance between her neighbor and his fiancee by using a spell that goes awry.

Though the play is more than four decades old, director Peter Abrams said, it still carries a message.

"I think that it's a play that has sticking power," Abrams said. "It was successful as a play and a movie, though it's a bit nostalgic."

Citrus County Art League newcomer Cindi Ellis portrays the witch, Gillian Holroyd. She falls in love with Shepherd Henderson (Frank Hanshaw) after he walks into her Greenwich Village art store one Christmas Eve.

"I thought she had the right feel and look," Abrams said of Ellis. "It's her first major role, but she's quite devoted and lights up the stage like a Christmas tree."

The rest of the cast includes Jackie DeTorres as Queenie Holroyd, the eccentric aunt of the witch clan; Daniel Lugo as mischievous little brother Nicky Holroyd; and Phil Isasi as slimy author Sidney Redlitch, whose role is to provide comic relief. The film role was portrayed by Kovacs.

A live cat portrays Pyewacket and is used for casting spells.

Although the play is about witches and the supernatural, Abrams said, it is not shocking.

"This is light witchcraft, nothing Satanic," Abrams said.

* * *

At a glance: Bell, Book and Candle opens today at the Citrus County Art League, 2644 N Annapolis Ave., Hernando. The play runs three consecutive weekends. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. and a Saturday matinee at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 12. Tickets are on sale at the art league from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door or call Lee at 746-0648 to reserve tickets by phone.

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