Part-time Traveller, Full-Time Brummie

Theatre Review: Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Bedknobs & Broomsticks

(AD: EVENT INVITE*) Try as I might, I couldn’t quite remember ever watching the 1971 Disney classic Bedknobs and Broomsticks as a child. Flying car? No, that’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Tea parties on the ceiling? No, that’s Mary Poppins. Football match with cartoon animals? Yep, I think that’s the one. So I approached Press Night at the Alexandra Theatre with the kind of wide-eyed wonder and awe usually reserved for seven year olds. But would forty-something me appreciate the magic?

You bet I did.

Credit: Johan Persson

“Everyone On The Bed Who’s Going.”

It’s no surprise that I got Bedknobs and Broomsticks mixed up with similar films of that ilk, as Sherman Brothers provided the score for all of the above. And this brand new production seamlessly adds new songs by Neil Bartram to that score. But how would Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison bring flying beds and broomsticks, underwater worlds and a platoon of marching suits of armour to the stage? Quite simply, through excellent puppetry, sleight of hand, tricks of the light and an extremely hard-working cast. And maybe a sprinkling of magic.

Credit: Johan Persson

The show starts with a bang, quite literally, as the lives of the three Rawlings children are turned upside down. They are left orphaned and homeless, and find themselves shipped out on a train to the South Coast, seeking refuge. The children are placed in the care of the prim and proper Miss Eglantine Price (Dianne Pilkington). Who is not quite as she seems. For a start, Miss Price is learning witchcraft via a correspondence course. And secondly, she intends to seek out a spell book which will complete her education, and in turn, support the war effort against the Nazis. Naturally, the children come along for the adventure. And the preferred mode of transport is, of course, an enchanted bed.

“Treguna, Makoidees, Trecorum, Sadis Dee”

The original Miss Price was played by Angela Lansbury, before she became a crime-solving sleuth/author in Murder She Wrote. Pilkington is a little sassier, and a little less stern, but plays the role subtly and with great emotion. She has a wonderful voice, and it’s easy to recognise that her previous preferred mode of transport was buble as Glinda in Wicked. Her sidekick Professor Emelius Browne is played by Charles Brunton, who adds an undertone of sadness and loneliness to his madcap character.

Credit: Johan Persson

The set, designed by Jamie Harrison, is a technical marvel. For a touring show, where sets are constructed and deconstructed with alarming frequency, the design looks much more complex than it is. We’re transported into the air, plunged into the depths of the ocean and wash up on the shores of a tropical island. The lagoon ballroom scenes are my favourite – who doesn’t love blue sequinned dancing fish? The costumes, designed by Gabriella Slade, are also a treat, with some particularly natty knitwear for the children. Sadly unavailable at the merch stand.

“I Liked You Better As A Rabbit, Charlie.”

The song and dance numbers draw the audience in, particularly the showstopping Portobello Road – a riot of colour, twirling and swirling handcarts, and pearly kings and queens. The talented cast move deftly around the stage like clockwork, beautifully choreographed by Neil Bettles.

Bedknobs & Broomsticks
Credit: Johan Persson

Despite all this magic and whimsy, the show stills manages to tug on the heartstrings. After all, three children are all alone in the world. But the kindness of strangers turns out to be more magical than any enchanted bedknob or bewitched broomstick. Bedknobs and Broomsticks is an absolute joy, and guaranteed to delight both adults and children alike.

“What’s That Got To Do With My Knob?”

Bedknobs and Broomsticks is playing at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre until Sunday 14th November. You can buy your tickets online here, or contact the Box Office on 0844 871 3011. The UK Tour continues until May 2022. For full dates and ticket purchases, check out The Bedknobs and Broomsticks Website

All Production Photos by Johann Persson

*Why is this post marked AD? I received complimentary tickets to this event. However, you can trust that I will always be honest and truthful on A Brummie Home and Abroad, and being an invited guest will not influence my opinion in any way.

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