‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ (Edinburgh Festival Theatre) | Review By Lewis C. Baird

‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ is a screen to stage adaptation I have been championing for the best part of a decade, and now finally the world premiere UK tour of the musical has arrived in Edinburgh! ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ follows Charlie, Carrie and Paul Rawlins as they are evacuated from a desolated London in the midst of the Blitz, into the calm British countryside. They are put into the hands of a Miss Eglantine Price, who seems to be hiding a secret from the children. Little do they know this secret will unlock a world of spectacular magic and amazement.

Dianne Pilkington is astounding as Eglantine Price. Dianne’s portrayal is slightly different to Angela Lanbury’s original approach to this character, and that by no means is a negative thing. Dianne has modernized the character by bringing in some comic nuances and also bringing more empathy to Eglantine which connects the audience to this character more than in the film. Dianne’s distinctive vocals really suit the score for this musical and even amplifies numbers, especially ‘The Age of Not Believing’, her voice aptly supplies great emotion which gives this number more power than in the original motion picture. Dianne’s portrayal of Eglantine is delightful and a standout performance in this new musical.

Charles Brunton dazzles audiences as Emelius Browne. Charles brings a bright showmanship to Emelius and also curiousity in the world surrounding him. Charle’s relationship with Dianne’s Eglantine is what really makes Emelius shine, especially during ‘The Beautiful Briny’. This is a fun portrayal to watch.

Now onto the Rawlins siblings with Conor O’Hara as Charlie, Izabelle Bucknell as Carrie and Aidan Oti as Paul, these three actors brought a great dynamic onto stage, bringing much the same energy as the original three children seen within the Disney motion picture. Conor O’Hara does stand out as the oldest of the three, Charlie, packing a lot more emotion into the sad experiences the Rawlins have went through, plus giving a stunning performance of ‘The Age of Not Believing (Reprise)’.

Rob Madge as Norton. (Photo by Johan Persson)

Throughout this performance there are lovely scenes which uses puppetry to bring to life the iconic animals featured in ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’. Rob Madge brings us one of the first animal encounters with Norton, a fish. Rob brilliantly brings comedy, superb vocals, while radiating energy as Norton. They are a joy to watch for audience members of all ages! Mark Anderson then brings us Sherman, a bear. Mark’s voice and puppetry work brings Sherman to life perfectly as a cuddlely, yet somewhat confused bear. Emma Thornett is hilarious as Angela, a bird. This is a fantastic portrayal with realistic movement applied by the puppeteers to make it seem like a real emu is on stage, talking. Matthew Elliot-Campbell terrifies audiences as King Leonidas, a lion. Matthew’s portrayal of King Leonidas is one which removes the slightly more friendly side of the lion and instead brings a little more villiany which really suits this version of the narrative.

Jacqui Dubois also features as the lovely yet stern Mrs Hobday, this is a great supporting performance which brings slight comedy to scenes which otherwise maybe quite heavy. Susannah Van Den Berg also features as Mrs Mason, the rough farmer, this is a hilarious portrayal.

Ensemble during ‘Portobello Road’. (Photo by Johan Persson)

This production has a immensely talented ensemble which sing, dance, act and also help create the wonderful magical illussions on stage. The ensemble are as follows; Jessica Aubrey (Swing), Georgie Buckland (Swing), Kayla Carter, Jonathan Cobb (Swing), Sam Lupton, Vinnie Monachello (Swing), Nathaniel Morrison, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Robin Simoes Da Silva.

Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison’s direction for ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ is unlike the direction of any other musical that is currently playing in the UK. Edmunds and Harrison’s intricate approach to Eglantine Price’s world is truly magical, having ensemble create each setting and drive the narrative is very clever. The only critique with the direction of this production is that scene transitions can be slightly clunky. However, apart from that, this is one of the most ingeniously creative musicals that has ever blessed a UK stage. Jamie’s set is fantastic, with the derelict bombed house framing all of the action, plus this is lifted by Simon Wilkinson’s vibrant light design. Jamie’s illusions are also truly unbelievable, seeing really is believing with this production.

Dianne Pilkington as Eglantine Price. (Photo by Johan Persson)

Gabriella Slade’s costume design is stunning for this production, taking barely any inspiration from the movie, yet providing arguably better style than that of the original. Neil Bettles’ Choreography helps lift musical numbers and also add to the magic of the illusions featured in the show.

Brian Hill’s book for this musical is fantastic, it adds layers to the original story and really fleshes out the characters. The one thing which divides audiences is the alternative ending, as much as it is very clever, plus provides a fresh perspective to the narrative, it seems rushed and a little bit of an anticlimax compared to the original.

The Sherman brother’s original music sounds exquisite with Simon Hale’s orchestrations, Neil Bartram’s new music also is a great addition to this production, most notably ‘Negotiality’. The score in this musical is an utter delight.

‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ is a spectacularly magical musical which will entertain audience members of all ages. The creatives of this production have worked so hard to bring this much loved movie to stage and it is clear the immensely talented cast share this passion. London’s West End would be blessed to have this production.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get your tickets for ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre now:

https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/bedknobs-and-broomsticks

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