Bedknobs and Broomsticks has its roots in a true story, based somewhat on the Christian occultist Dion Fortune who (with others) practised magic during the war effort against Nazi Germany.
The musical’s opening is thrilling with drums and percussion building on the dramatic tension of the attacking German Luftwaffe’s bombs over 1940s London, all under a blood-red moon. The Rawlins children board a train to the country … ‘it’s safer in the country reads’ one banner. They are soon under the care of apprentice witch Eglantine Price who shares some similarities with Mary Poppins. The character has enough to stand on her own two feet and Dianne Pilkington does a fantastic job of teasing out her colourful eccentricities while sporting a pair of purple culotte trousers from a stunning wardrobe.
Charles Brunton as Emilius Browne has more than a touch of a young Bruce Forsyth about him which works well for this London period piece. The haunting vocal performances, picture of a black cat or Eglantine flying on her broomstick all help build a spellbinding vibe. Watching the character fly high in the air while taking on the sinister Nazis in completely black uniforms was theatre at its best. Chris Fisher has done a faultless job as the illusionist consultant, the magic was mesmerising. Perhaps my favourite moment was the show-stopping performance of Portobello Road.
That visit to old London was a phantasmagoric celebration of the market traders flamboyant clothes, language and bartering techniques. This is an unmissable celebration of a Walt Disney story more than 50 years on from the classic 1971 film starring Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson that takes the story in a fresh new direction of its own.