Reviewed by Alexander Wilde
Sublime and captivating, a delightful new production of Bedknobs and Broomsticks has landed at Nottingham Theatre Royal. Believe in magic again!
Every trip to the city’s splendorous Victorian theatre is special, but on the night of 50th Anniversary of the UK cinematic release of the award-winning film and the 50th show on this world premier tour, we were certain tonight would be truly special. And I am delighted to say expectations were exceeded!
For those unfamiliar with the story: it’s the height of the Blitz and the orphaned Rawlins children are evacuated from London to Pepperidge Eye on the Dorset coast. Billeted to the reluctant and pensive Miss Englantine Price, an ‘apprentice witch’ who is unable to hide her burgeoning broom abilities, the children are drawn into her personal mission in aid of the war effort.
From the frenetic and emotive opening montage of the children’s trauma and evacuation, cleverly told through fractured scenery, it was clear that I remembered very little of the original plot. My memories were of the fantastical – flying brooms and beds, and the combination of animated and live action. All this was present, but more poignant than expected, this was a story of hope and the power of shared beliefs – told exuberantly by numerous talented casts and creatives!
The ensemble of stage stalwarts, debuts and supporting actors were all fantastic. Dianne Pilkington as Miss Price is mesmerising and tender, adding new depths to the character originally played by the great Angela Lansbury. Her solo numbers were sung with conviction and perfection. Paired with the flair of fragile con-artist Professor Browne, played by the multi-faceted Charles Brunton, the leading adult duo sparkle with chemistry.
The cockney children are led by Conor O’Hara, as Charlie, unbelievably in his first professional appearance. The epitome of the older big brother, forced to care for his siblings, the bond between the three of them appeared effortless, his vocal skills, physicality and cheeky lines were a hit. The younger two Rawlins were equally as talented for their ages and are sure to be stars of the future.
Familiar and fan favourite musical numbers by the legendary Sherman Brothers abound and drive the narrative effortlessly. The lively and catchy ‘Portobello Road’ was a delight and the auditorium couldn’t help but hum along to the ‘The Beautiful Briny’. Accompanied by the phenomenal live orchestra, these tunes carried on the air with the departing audience. Additional credit goes to the wider ensemble’s acapella parts; the atmosphere they created, particularly in scenes of wonder or tension, was excellent.
The manually shifting scenery and stage dressing and costumes created an authentic yet highly novel production, complimented by clever lighting and sound design, the audience journeyed to a variety of locales.
And of the animated characters, synonymous with the film? Wonderfully brought to life by puppeteers! The fish folk are particularly transcendent and comical.
Quintessentially Disney, this performance does not contain the spectacle of other House of Mouse touring or West End productions, yet envelops you in joy from start to finish. Perfectly capturing the heart and essence of the classic motion picture; and for me the memories of simpler, rainy, childhood Sundays, snuggled up in the living room watching the film with my family. Thoroughly charmed and warm inside, I left the theatre delighted. A must see for fans and families alike!
Rating: Five enchanting stars! (5/5)
‘Bob along’ to Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 10th October 2021.
Tickets are available from the website www.trch.co.uk or by calling the Box Office on 0115 989 5555.
Priced at £20 – £57, plus discounts for Royal Members and various concessions.
More details on the tour available at Bedknobs & Broomsticks the Musical | Official website (bedknobsonstage.com)