American songwriting duo Sherman Brothers have written the film scores for many timeless classics, including Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Jungle Book.
Their songs from the 1971 Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks, starring Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson, may not be as well-known as those from those earlier scores, but they’ve been given new life since that musical premiered in 2021 and toured the UK over the past year.
With additional songs by Neil Bartram and a script by Brian Hill (the team behind the Broadway hit The Story of My Life) and sets and illusions by Jamie Harrison, who created the magic in Harry Potter and the cursed child, this vibrant musical has it all.
READ MORE: Restaurant promises ‘big flavors and big tunes’ as it opens later
Set in 1940, it is the story of three children evacuated from London to Dorset during World War II. They are placed in the care of Miss Eglantine Price, who also happens to be a trainee witch with a flying broomstick.
Miss Price also has big plans to put a spell on Nazis landing on the nearby coast until she discovers her school of sorcery is closing before she completes the course.
She casts a spell on a brass bedknob that turns the children’s bed into a magical flying contraption so they can return to London to find Professor Emelius Browne, a Cockney showman whom Miss Price is convinced has the last illusory spell, Substitutiary Locomotion, and which ends up as a father figure for the children in their magical adventure.
Although there is an anti-war backstory, this is an upbeat musical about family ties and children with wild imaginations.
Dianne Pilkington is an elegant but strong-willed Miss Price and she has a wonderful voice. Stage music veteran Charles Brunton is a likeable Mr. Browne, and his heartbreaking cockneyisms are often reminiscent of Ron Moody in Oliver, especially Emelius The Great.
The child actors also impress, especially Conor O’Hara as Charlie Rawlins. A brilliant singer and dancer reminiscent of a young Tommy Steele, O’Hara only graduated from drama school in 2020, so this is his first big role – we’re sure to see plenty more of that in the years to come. future.
The show is packed with standout songs, including Nobody’s Problems, The Beautiful Briny, Portobello Road and Negotiality, but it’s the illusions and magic that truly thrill audiences.
Actors suddenly transformed into bunnies and inanimate objects like swords and shoes dancing around the flying bed and broom – and, yes, they really do fly – it’s a show that delivers everything you’d expect from a comedy Disney musical.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 29th January. For tickets, go here.