Bubbly Chemistry at Bottle Tree Productions’ ‘The Witch and The Glitch’

Poster for Bottle Tree Productions' production of 'The Witch and the Glitch'. The title, playwright/lyricist, composer, dates, location, and ticket prices are noted. A witch appears the has been photoshopped to look very jagged.

In the afterglow of Valentine’s Day, Bottle Tree Productions presents a potent potion for theatre lovers: The Witch and The Glitch. With a bubbly cast, spellbinding physical comedy, and lighthearted songs, The Witch and The Glitch provides a much-needed remedy to the doldrums of winter. This musical fable for grown-ups features a book and lyrics by Gord Love, who directs the show, and music by Michael Capon, who serves as accompanist. 

Fed up with love’s tribulations, Witch Hazel (Shannon Donnelly) conjures a paragon of masculine beauty to be her companion: Paragon (Michael Donnelly). To Hazel’s dismay, Paragon refuses her advances—he’s wrapped up in his own fantasy, longing to find and pursue a cruel, vindictive enchantress who doesn’t like him back (you can imagine where the ‘witch’ rhymes go). Things take a Freudian turn when Paragon discovers that Hazel created him and starts calling her ‘Mom’, and further complications come along with the appearance of Chloe (Brayah Pickard) and Joey (Daniel Pauley), a pair of star-crossed lovers who have had the misfortune of inciting Hazel’s wrath. 

Stock characters make a solid base for this brew, and the ensemble’s chemistry is nothing short of magical. Shannon Donnelly brings commanding stage presence and striking vocal power to the role of Hazel, the lonely witch whose spells tend to go awry (thus the ‘glitch’ in the title). Michael Donnelly’s portrayal of Paragon dances nimbly between the bratty, the boyish, and the braggartly with a seemingly endless reserve of Shatneresque charisma. As Joey, Pauley’s singing is jaw-dropping, and he and Pickard play off each other’s over-the-top emotions beautifully—which is especially impressive since their characters are under a curse and cannot look at each other for most of the play. Meanwhile, Pickard plays the sweet and simpering Chloe to comical perfection, taking her character to some unexpected places as the story develops. 

The show is campy, creative, and relentlessly silly. Evoking commedia dell’arte types, the characters are written with distinctive voices and use clever turns of phrase. Capon’s melodies are playful and reminiscent of classic musical theatre, and while Love’s lyrics are a little predictable at times, they’re always catchy. Although the show’s pace sometimes lags (yes, that’s a glitch joke), the dialogue is amusing, and I can forgive a few repeated gags for overstaying their welcome. The plot’s flimsier points are patched up seamlessly by the talent of the cast, with an unexpected deus ex machina toward the end eliciting enormous laughter from Saturday night’s audience.

Although I’ve lived in Kingston for nearly a decade, this was my first time attending a play at Bottle Tree Productions. Located in St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, the studio is cozy and welcoming, playing host to multiple theatre productions throughout the year as well as camps and classes for children, youth, and adults. The Witch and The Glitch is part of Bottle Tree’s Studio Series, which offers one-act plays geared toward adults. The Studio Series features pre-show music by local artists, and I enjoyed listening to Lotus Shaker’s album Venus Eyes as I sipped a cup of tea and took in the ethereal set (designed by David Row) before the performance. 

The Witch and The Glitch is exactly what I wished for this weekend. It’s funny, it’s charming, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously—the show is presented with gusto, warts and all. “Anything is magic if you give it a chance,” sings the ensemble. If you’re in the mood for a musical comedy this month, it’s certainly worth giving The Witch and The Glitch a chance to enchant you.

The Witch and the Glitch plays at Bottle Tree Productions until March 3, 2024. Tickets and more information can be found here.