Reviewed by Michelle M
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a classic, magical Disney movie I have loved dearly since I was a child. This year has seen the world premier launch of a brand new musical production, based on the original movie and original book by Mary Norton. This production is touring the UK until March 2022. I was delighted to be able to see the show at Sheffield Lyceum theatre where it can be enjoyed until Saturday evening. We had a fantastic view from our quite roomy seats in the stalls and thoroughly enjoyed this show. A variety of souvenirs can be purchased in the lobby and refreshments are readily available from the venue bars. The cloakroom remains closed at this time so it’s advised not to bring large bags along.
Set in the blitz of the Second World War, when many children were evacuated from London to the country side Bedknobs and Broomsticks tells the story of the Rawlins children. The three are orphaned by the bombs and sent to live in the safety of a country village, namely Pepperindge Eye. Here they are reluctantly taken in by Miss Elgantine Price, an apprentice witch. Charlie, Carrie and Paul, along with Miss Price and her teacher, Professor Emelius Browne, embark on an adventure in search of a secret spell to aid the war effort and defeat the enemy. Facilitated by an enchanted bedknob, a bewitched broomstick and true belief in magic, the five form a bond in the face of adversity and embark on a spellbinding journey that takes in Portobello Road, the Beautiful Briny Sea and the Isle of Nopeepo along with more mundane places.
Directed by Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison, with lighting design by Simon Wilkinson and delightfully colourful costumes by Gabriella Slade the nostalgia is high in this new production. Including original songs by the legendary Sherman Brothers along with new music and lyrics by Neil Bartram and a new book by Brian Hill, this musical is truly a magical experience. The film included animated characters and scenes and I was intrigued as to how these would be managed, especially the talking fish and flying bed. These were masterfully recreated with the use of puppets and moving set pieces. I was very impressed with the way choreography and the whole ensemble were cleverly used throughout to manipulate the set pieces. The spells were made to work with excellently executed illusions designed by Jamie Harrison, who was also the set designer for the show, men became rabbits, clothing was bewitched and even a bed really can be made to fly!
Angela Lansbury, so familiar to many, is a hard act to follow but Dianne Pilkington does a brilliant job as the leading lady, performing spectacularly whether flying high on a broom, bobbing along with twists and twirls in the briny sea or with her feet firmly on the ground in her home! Conor O’Hara was fantastic in his role as Charlie, with strong vocals and fabulous interaction with the two younger children, who also held their own magnificently throughout. The chemistry between Professor Emelius Browne and Miss Price was also spot on and the five truly portrayed their characters extremely well.
Those of you familiar with the movie will notice some changes which fill in some of the plot holes from the movie. I won’t spoil it for you by sharing more but do be warned that the ending does differ quite significantly compared to the movie, and brought a tear to my eye at one point. It may be that Disney did a disservice to the original book by leaving these additions out or it could be that the creative team behind the musical did a wonderful job of filling in some blanks. Whichever it is the changes only serve as an enhancement to the show.
This production has a tremendous ensemble, utilised to wonderful effect throughout, lovely set design and plenty of magic and awe the whole way though really bringing the classic story to life. It is a delightful spellbinding night out suitable for all the family. We were captivated from start to finish!
Ticket prices £15 to £55.50
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is at The Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield until 30th October
Tickets can be booked online, in person at the box office or over the phone with Sheffield Theatres.
Website booking here.
Address: 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA
Phone: 0114 249 6000 open 12noon until 6pm or 30minutes before the show starts.