There are certain movies from childhood that stick in your mind. Bedknobs and Broomsticks is one of them.
I loved it as a youngster and dreamed of joining a journey on the magical bed to meet talking animals in a fantasy land. I watched it again a few years ago with Nina and our daughter, who immediately joined the Bedknobs fan club! ‘Bobbing along’ became one of our regular family tunes.
I was excited to discover the beloved tale has been turned into a musical because if there’s ever a Disney adventure that would work on stage, it’s this one.
Set in the 1940s, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the story of three orphaned children, Charlie, Carrie and Paul Rawlins, who are evacuated from London to the countryside during the Second World War. They are allocated to the care of the eccentric Miss Eglantine Price. Living alone in a remote house, she is training as a witch and working on a plan to foil a Nazi invasion with a secret spell.
Eglantine is shocked to discover that her witchcraft school is closing. She transforms a bed into a flying machine and travels to London with the children to meet the school’s owner Professor Emelius Browne.
It turns out that Browne is a cockney street magician who knows very little about magic but stumbled across the spells in an old book. To find the final spell to take on the enemy, the group realise they must visit the Island of Nopeepo, an underwater land run by animals.
Outstanding performances in Bedknobs and Broomsticks
The performances in this show are outstanding. Dianne Pilkington has a stunning voice and is fantastic as Eglantine, while Charles Bruton shines as the quirky Emelius.
In the movie, the performances of Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson are so iconic you would think it would be hard to separate them from this new cast but despite me immediately thinking of Tomlinson when Charles Brunton first appeared on stage, I soon forgot as they really do make the roles their own.
The three children are impressive too, led by the wonderful Conor O’Hara as 13-year-old Charlie Rawlins. This is his first big role having graduated from drama school in 2020. We will definitely see more of him!
The creation of the magic is superb. The bed really does fly and Eglantine takes to the sky on a broom. It’s impossible to see how they do it and 24 hours on we still can’t work out the illusions!
The set design by Jamie Harrison is superb. From the start we were saying ‘wow’ as a small section of the stage with just a bed is transformed into wartime London. Production staff and other members of the cast seamlessly move the set around throughout the show, and although they are highly visible, it doesn’t matter. In fact, it adds to the wizardry of the spectacular production.
On the Island of Nopeppo, the talking animals are brought to life with amazing puppets including a life size King Leonidas the lion, while a breathtaking scene in Portobello Road Market, which explodes with colour and sumptuous costumes by Gabriella Slade, is a huge highlight in a show that has many.
On the music front, all your favourite tunes from the movie, composed by Richard M and Robert B Sherman, are there, alongside fab new songs by Neil Bartram.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a wonderful musical that oozes with the magic of Disney that we all know and love. It’s time to start believing!
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 29 January.