How many of you remember the famous 1971 Disney film starring Angela Lansbury which won an Academy Award for Best Special Visual Effects? And how many of you have watched it many, many times with your own children and grandchildren?
It’s hard to believe that it’s taken 50 years for a stage version of this stone-cold classic to hit the boards, but believe it you must. For the musical Bedknobs & Broomsticks is on its maiden tour of theatres not just across the UK but anywhere in the world having had its world premier in Newcastle upon Tyne in August of last year.
For those of you that don’t know the story, it’s about three children orphaned during the Battle of Britain who are transported to the country for their own safety where they are reluctantly placed into the temporary care of Miss Eglantine Price.
Miss Price is an English eccentric who is learning witchcraft via a correspondence course in the belief that she will be able to use her new found skills to aid the British war effort against Germany.
But then Eglantine learns that the school is to close without her having learnt the all- important final spell and that is where the magical journey begins.
We are transported, via the flying bed, and yes it does actually fly, first to London to locate the missing spell. Here we meet Professor Emelius Browne, the proprietor of the aforesaid school, a two-bit showman struggling to make a living who is shocked when he learns that the spells that he has been pedalling from an old book do actually work!
There’s just one problem – and that’s the fact that the Professor doesn’t have the final spell either. And so the fantastical hunt begins as we go via the Portobello Road and its vibrant market, to a remote island called Naboombu and then the wonderful deep briny sea.
The final spell is eventually located and the bed transports the successful quintet back home where the remainder of the story plays out. If you want to find out what that ending is then you need to go and see the show.
And you won’t be disappointed.
The stage setting is mesmerizing, there is so much going on throughout the whole performance you don’t know where to look most of the time. The lighting is atmospheric and the music ensures that the story never loses momentum. The songs, of course, are written by musical royalty, The Sherman Brothers, responsible among others for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Special mention should go to the puppets used throughout the production and the cast that bring them almost to life.
But what really makes this performance is the cast itself led by the esteemed Diane Pilkington as Eglantine Price who is ably supported by Charles Brunton as Professor Browne and the three children, Conor O’Hara as Charlie, Dexter Barry as Paul and Isabelle Bucknell as Carrie. All were excellent as were the talented and very busy ensemble!
Take the grandkids and watch their faces as the story unfolds before them – you and they won’t be disappointed – and I guarantee that the bed will have you all transfixed.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 29 January and then at various venues around the country until 01 May. To find out more and for tour dates click here.