Newcastle Theatre Royal, 20/08/2021
Theatre is BACK! It feels like such a time for celebration; not only is it back but we are already being treated to brand new shows across the country. Newcastle Theatre Royal has the honour of hosting Disney’s newest musical Bedknobs and Broomsticks on it’s first week of performances so we had to make sure we saw it!
Having seen the 1971 film for the first time last year, it felt exciting to be witnessing a new stage adaptation of an original film that we weren’t too precious about. Bedknobs and Broomsticks tells the story of the orphaned Rawlins children who have been evacuated from World War 2 London to the countryside and are sent to live with the mysterious Eglantine Price (Dianne Pilkington). Their new life quickly reveals itself to be quite the unexpected as they go on an adventure they will never forget – aboard a flying magical bed! The show was a lot of fun, packed with the classic songs you love amidst new ones, stage magic and an adventure for the full family to enjoy. Read on to find out our five reasons to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks!
1. The impressive illusions
Anyone who has seen the film or has any knowledge of Bedknobs and Broomsticks at all will know that a magic flying bed is a pretty integral part of the story. The execution of the bed movement really is a spectacle and looks so effective, one that will really blow the younger audience members minds!
Alongside the magic of the bed, we also are treated early on to a very charming and funny scene involving Eglantine Price (Pilkington) and a new broom – without spoiling anything this scene is one to watch out for as another incredibly impressive bit of stage magic tied in with some great comic timing. The tricks used for the larger set pieces as above really added that touch of Disney magic that feels key to this story.
2. The Ensemble
As with any show, the ensemble will always play a key role and this is no different for Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Scene changing, set movement and the backbone of the storytelling is all done by the ensemble on top of the roles they are already playing. Some of the cast even get their time to shine across the show as characters the protagonists meet along the way, which each in turn feels like a special moment. The movement of the set is quite unique in how much is done manually by the cast; clouds, trees and reeds are all brought on by the ensemble which really helps to create that seamless feel to a show that doesn’t have the grace of a big budget.
3. There’s a perfect lead cast
Following in the footsteps of Anglea Lansbury, Dianne Pilkington takes to the role of Eglantine Price like a fish to the briny sea! Her mannerisms, wit and humour all excel in the part allowing the audience to be in the palm of her hand throughout.
Charles Brunton’s take on Emelius Browne is quite different to that of David Tomlinson, giving us a more eccentric and child friendly entertainer who’s stage presence is a delight too.
Finally, starring in his professional debut in arguably the third main role is Conor O’Hara as Charlie Rawlins. His energy on stage and evident joy to be there is wonderful. The endearing way he works with and guides the younger cast members too is really heartwarming. It only feels a bit unfair for him that the line was kept in where he has to claim he’s 13 years old – around 7 years less than he looks. Regardless, a fantastic performance from a new face!
4. Integration of new songs
As someone who has only experienced the film once, it was a welcome feeling to find difficulty in making out which parts of the score and songs were new to Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The score really felt like it tied in all the numbers well and you could easily mistake the new music and lyrics for the classic Sherman Brothers creations. The score is as beautiful as you’d expect with a Disney musical, guiding you on the journey you take with the characters.
5. It’s such a great nostalgia trip
For fans of the film, it’s wonderful to see an old favourite from the silver screen brought to life through a range of new material, some great puppeteering and excellent characterisation from the cast. The show stays true to the overall story arc of the original film, whilst making some slight changes and cutting some parts that just wouldn’t work on stage (the football game isn’t in, which feels like the right decision). Some changes to the story may be unwelcomed by some but can be easily overlooked as they have added more emotion to the show too, allowing it to appeal further to a wider age range.
In summary, whilst Bedknobs and Broomsticks may not have the production value or budget of the bigger name Disney musicals, it still manages to portray the original material with humour and heart. There are parts of the show that would benefit from a bit more money thrown at it but don’t let that take you away from this classic tale. This incredibly hardworking cast deserve to be seen! All tour dates across the UK can be found by clicking here!