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Did Bedknobs and Broomsticks cast a spell over critics?

The show is currently touring for the first time

The Bedknobs and Broomsticks company
© Johan Persson

Daniella Harrison, WhatsOnStage

★★★★

"Of course, what most audiences are here to see is the magic, and illusions designer Jamie Harrison certainly does not disappoint. Though some of the handheld magic could do with some polishing, the star of the show is of course the flying bed. Earning a round of applause when it takes off the first time, its frame glowing amber, it is a huge delight to watch and truly enchanting."

"Puppets are used excellently throughout the show, often to present the animals the troupe encounter. They're wonderful and beautifully designed, and it's clear puppet designer Kenneth MacLeod and directors Harrison and Candice Edmunds have spent time with the actors ensuring each puppet really comes to life. Humans turning into rabbits is equally pleasing and creative. This is good old-fashioned stage magic at its best."


Tim Bano, The Stage

★★★★★

"The new segments and songs from composer Neil Bartram are indistinguishable from the Shermans' originals, capturing the same knees-up playfulness – the musical equivalent of Cockney rhyming slang – with a topping of Disney syrup. But Hill also adds dark depths too, never forgetting the horrors of war.

"The approach of Edmunds and both Harrisons is a case of Bedknobs, Broomsticks and the kitchen sink. The result is a spectacular resurrection of an overlooked title, fuelled by illusion and pure theatrical magic."


Dominic Maxwell, The Times

★★★★

"When Brian Hill's script plays its emotional hand, the bogginess of the middle section is fast forgotten. The battle of inanimate objects against invading Nazis is neatly done, but it's the stuff about family and belonging and the consolations of art that makes resistance futile. Crucially Dianne Pilkington as Eglantine Price is outstanding: she makes a highly technical role look effortless, sings beautifully and lends Price strength but tenderness too. A B-list Disney film, perhaps, but an A-list adaptation."


The Bedknobs and Broomsticks company
© Johan Persson


Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

★★★★

"Too many songs by (Disney stalwarts) the Sherman Brothers hit the cutting-room floor. Composer/lyricist Neil Bartram (working with fellow Canadian Brian Hill, in charge of the book) rectifies this with an earful of 17 numbers. Stand-outs include existing gems like "The Beautiful Briny" and that colourful knees-up "Portobello Road", but rescued ballad "Nobody's Problems" and chirpy newcomer "Negotiality" integrate seamlessly too."

"The broomstick in question shifts, slides and spins out of Eglantine's exasperated hands seemingly with a life of its own. When it sends Pilkington's stylish but solitary soul soaring about, it has us beaming as delightedly as her. As for the brass bed, it shimmers in technicolour when activated and levitates with a CGI-challenging magnificence not seen since Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. That's not the half of it: the hands-free coups de theatre are complemented with flourishes in which the ensemble openly manipulate objects, entailing a suspension of disbelief."


Gary Naylor, The Arts Desk

★★★★★

"From the bravura opening scene in which the evacuation is dazzlingly executed, the show is a triumph, every penny of the ticket price up there for us to see. The kids will be wowed by the special effects (plenty around me were, and not just kids), parents will enjoy the beautiful costumes and everyone will marvel at the extraordinarily expressive puppets. As touring shows like this often promise but less rarely deliver, this really is a big night out for all the family."

"If the pace sags a little after the interval, there are always Gabriella Slade's beautiful costumes to enjoy: sensible tweeds tailored long for protection against the elements and against what the future might hold for a kingdom under existential threat. It also takes a little while to recover from Kenneth MacLeod's extraordinary puppets at their best in the wonderfully realised dancing contest that stands in for the famous football match with its stretcher-bearing vultures."


Chris Weigand, The Guardian

★★

"The puppetry includes a mini-Eglantine on her broom (adding little to the scene where the children discover her witchcraft); the rabbit from her signature spell; and the glowing fish and lion king of Nopeepo (renamed from Naboombu), the island visited on their trusty magical bed. That section of the film brings its catchiest song, "The Beautiful Briny", and the animated escapade with a menagerie of animals playing football.

"The match is cut from the show while the underwater routine in the "Briny Ballroom" lacks a lightness of touch even if the outfits shimmer. With so little plot, Bedknobs and Broomsticks needs set pieces that dazzle and the big sequences here – the paean to fakery, "Portobello Road"; the dancing nightgowns; the climactic battle with a bodiless army – require sharper delivery. Curiously, the flying bed isn't given a big Aladdin-style magic-ride number. The movement more generally should be done "with a flair" in the words of Price's unlikely tutor, trickster Emelius Browne."

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