Theatre Review: BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS – The Lowry, Salford

Dianne Pikington (Miss Eglantine Price) Bedknobs & Broomsticks. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Dianne Pikington in BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

From set and costume design to choreography and stage trickery, BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS leaves you seriously questioning the existence of magic.

4 out of 5 stars

Another Disney film to become a stage production, BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS, flies into Salford’s The Lowry this week, but who needs movie magic when you’ve got the magic of theatre?

The brand-new musical takes audiences on a journey of wonder through magical lands, past perilous foes and the especially poignant themes of war. Siblings Charlie, Paul and Carrie find themselves forced to evacuate to the quaint village of Pepperinge Eye when war tears their world apart. They’re put into the care of Eglantine Price, a whimsical yet tough lady to whom there is more than meets the eye. They embark on a magical quest to defeat the shadows by the time of the red moon.

Audiences are quickly introduced to Mrs Price’s witching powers and the truly mystifying elements within the show. Gasps of wonderment and excitement from children and adults can be heard all around the theatre as we are drawn into the Disneyfication that always manages to bring out an adults’ inner child.

The cast of Bedknobs and Broomsticks

The cast of BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

As expected for a Disney production, no expense has been spared. Every element seen on stage is carefully considered, from set design and costume to choreography and stupefying acts of stage trickery, leaving you seriously questioning the existence of magic.

From the moment the bed lifts off the stage floor, it’s clear that this is no ordinary family show. It is technically astounding with set, props and even fish brought to life on stage. The ensemble plays an integral role, bringing the inanimate set elements to life like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

The show manages to keep audiences swept up within its own reality whilst making light of the elements it knows it can’t perfect, encouraging the audience’s imagination to lead the way. One such moment enjoyed by both children and adults within the audience is the clever use of puppetry when Mrs Price flies into the distance on her broomstick as the three children watch from the window.

Stealing the show is Dianne Pilkington as Eglantine Price, a role previously played by Dame Angela Lansbury – not easy shoes to fill! The character gives strong ‘Mary Poppins’ vibes, an easy-going yet motherly figure that Pilkington seems to embody effortlessly. This casting is truly on point with stunning vocals and a leading presence.

The cast of BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Emelius Browne, the comedic (wannabe) magician, is played by Charles Brunton. Brunton brings high energy and likability to a character that could easily be overly flamboyant or overplayed. The three children led by Conor O’Hara were terrific, shining even with the wonderful spectacle unfurling around them.

War is a powerful undercurrent within the story, which is all too familiar in the current climate. Yet despite this, BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS offers the escapism audiences need and a reminder of what gets us through, imagination, family and hope.

The original soundtrack by The Sherman Brothers, the pair behind MARY POPPINS and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG amongst others, is unfortunately rather forgettable. It is also a rather long show for young children, although it is one that the whole family will enjoy.

BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS is true a Disney show. Magic is what Disney does best, and this show certainly has it in abundance.

BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS runs at The Lowry, Salford, until 19 March 2022.