Arts Reviews

”Expect To Be Endeared By The Overall Wholesomeness Of The Story” – Theatre Review: Bedknobs And Broomsticks

Amelia Gibbs

A feel-good and wholesome show: Amelia Gibbs reviews Bedknobs and Broomsticks ahead of it’s arrival at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, from October 6 – October 10.

Disney’s current theatre catalogue in the UK is impressive, with fan-favourite’s such as Frozen, and Beauty and the Beast available to appease audiences itching for their Disney fix. It seems strange that Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a charming but less widely beloved film, would make the cut when compared to the other shows in its cohort.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks brings a much more intimate experience than Disney’s other shows

50 years on from its film release, Bedknobs and Broomsticks has made its world premiere with a UK and Ireland tour. And, while the show doesn’t live up to Frozen’s special effects or Beauty and the Beast’s haunting musical additions, a viewing of the show makes the gap in the market a little clearer to see. Bedknobs and Broomsticks brings a much more intimate experience than Disney’s other shows, delivering the quaint appeal that made the film a cult favourite for Disney fans.

Neil Bartram’s new music fits nicely with the original soundtrack, and works more to accompany the songs you know rather than to compete with them. Portabello Road stands out for it’s simple but effective set pieces, while The Beautiful Briny transports you underwater with some dazzling costumes. Unfortunately, the Substitutiary Locomotion reprise and climactic battle leaves something to be desired, with the relatively small company failing to convey the threat of the here unspecified enemy, leaving you itching for a more satisfying peak.

Diane Pilkington gives a delightful performance as Eglantine Price, nailing the character’s amusing balance of sincerity and absurdity whilst keeping her portrayal unique to Angela Lansbury’s iconic performance. Charles Brunton’s Emelius Browne also manages to differentiate itself from its film counterpart, and both leads offer strong vocals which do justice to the Sherman Brothers’ original music and Bartram’s new additions.

Brian Hill reworks the ending in favour of a more emotional impact that changes the narrative significantly

The show’s special effects are dealt with in ways totally appropriate to the text. The flying bed is likely passed off using a simple crane illusion – a tried and tested method which still holds up as believable – whereas some of the other magical moments are dealt with less convincingly but just as charmingly. Puppetry is used beautifully to bring to life the animal residents of the Isle of Nopeepo – changed here from the Isle of Naboombu – as well as in a comical scene involving a miniature Eglantine flying on a broom, a moment which chooses to value the humorous over the persuasive and pays off totally.

Avid fans of the film should be prepared for some disappointment, as classic moments from the original picture are altered while others, including the comical football match, are removed entirely. In an attempt to ground the story in reality, writer Brian Hill reworks the ending in favour of a more emotional impact that changes the narrative significantly. Sadly, it’s a change that feels unwarranted, underdeveloped, and sacrifices some of the whimsical nature of the original.

Still, you can expect a joyful time. Film fans will enjoy seeing the characters and music brought to life, while new audiences can expect to be endeared by the overall wholesomeness of the story. Bedknobs and Broomsticks aims to delight rather than wow, and it works to make this show feel like a treat.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks will play at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, from October 6 – October 10, 2021.

three stars

Amelia Gibbs

Featured image courtesy of Gwen King via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @bedknobsonstage via No changes were made to these images.

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