Bedknobs and Broomsticks – Milton Keynes Theatre

Reviewer: Kerrie Walters

Book: Brian Hill

Music and Lyrics: Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman, with new music and lyrics by Neil Bartram

Directors: Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison

This breath-taking adaptation of the Disney classic film has flown into Milton Keynes. From the moment that the curtain rises, the audience is captivated by the bright and bold sights and sounds of this high energy production.

The opening scene is nothing short of fantastic. The reality of living in Blitz era London is summed up succinctly with its breaking of sets, confusion of direction and unrelenting destruction. Indeed, it is the fluidity of the set that truly captures the imagination of the audience. There is a constant pulsating movement that really cuts through each scene.

On this occasion Poppy Houghton, Dexter Barry and Conor O’Hara, give stellar performances as the children, Carrie, Paul and Charlie. Houghton plays with a maturity beyond her years and her Carrie has a feistiness that adds just the perfect touch of comedy to the scenes. Barry is not only adorable, but he is also the consummate professional. He has excellent musicality and is entirely at home in this Cheeky-Chappy role. O’Hara is outstanding as Charlie. This is truly a diverse and dynamic performance in which he portrays the true gamut of emotions. His first solo number, Negotiality, is side-splittingly funny and with each reprise, it gets bigger and funnier. His physicality is fantastic and the transformation from boy to bunny is seamlessly executed. This is a very exciting young performer who is sure to go on to dominate the West End stage in years to come.

Dianne Pilkington is utterly stunning as Eglantine Price. She effortlessly portrays her with authoritarian gravitas and just the right amount of sensitivity which gives the character real heart. Angela Lansbury left some very large shoes to fill following the original film adaptation of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but if anyone was going to come along and fill them it was going to be Dianne Pilkington!

During her first number, A step in the right direction, she masterfully commands the stage with an impressive display of vocal talent and a side of physical comedy. Throughout the show, she is dynamic and majestic, looking and sounding the perfect leading lady. It is no wonder that this show ended with rapturous applause and a well-deserved standing ovation.

Charles Brunton’s Emelius Browne has more than a touch of Razzle Dazzle about him. We first encounter him performing cheap parlour tricks with misdirection and sleight of hand. HIs colourful and ostentatious displays add a large helping of light relief to the show. The audience hangs upon his every word and is genuinely enthralled by the electric chemistry between Brunton and Pilkington.

A very special mention has to go to Simon Wilkinson for his gorgeous light design. Each scene has been designed and lit just beautifully. It truly is pitch-perfect and really punches home the amazing illusions and set manipulations that Jamie Harrison has so cleverly put in place. In particular, the rabbit to human illusion is so perfectly executed each time that it genuinely seems like a real-life transformation has taken place before our very eyes.

Matthew Elliot-Campbell is fearsome and commanding in his portrayal of King Leonidas. The puppetry within this scene, and in the other underwater sequences, is masterful, really capturing the Disney magic of the original animation.

The ensemble cast is truly a living organism on set: the transitions are fluid, the choral work pulsating.

This truly is a fantastic family show which encapsulates all the wholesome magic of Disney at its heart. It comes highly recommended

Runs until 19 September 2021 and touring

The Reviews Hub Score

Ethereal , Enchanting and Enthralling

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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