Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the latest Disney film turned into a Broadway musical. The theatre production is based on a much-loved film and book (‘The Magic Bedknob’), so there was a lot of pressure and expectation for the production.
In a lot of ways, the production was a success! The show is infused with magic and dynamism. The stage effects and design work together to absorb your attention and create a convincing story. The songs are energising—one would wish that the movements would never end.
The story includes many inanimate objects that move under the influence of magic. This evidently provides a challenge to a stage production, and this play executed this amazingly! The stage effects were believable, and the objects moved with no explanatory mechanism visible. Other magical aspects to the story, such as Mr Browne’s tricks in the song ‘With a Flair’, are also accomplished to a very high standard. Puppetry is also beautifully employed. The rabbit that Miss Price turned people into is played by a puppet. A puppet’s perspective is used when children watch Miss Price ride her broom and is also used in Nopeepo land. They brought an extra measure of magic to the performance. This aspect is only achievable because of its theatre format, which made the show unique.
The scene changes and stage effects were impressive and imposing. For example, the smoke and lighting at the end reflected the children’s realisation that everything had been a dream. The lighting evoked a sense of disappointment and bewilderment in the audience, echoing the children’s emotions.
However, some things were lacking, and the production was disappointing in some aspects when compared to the film and the book. One such problem is the lack of emotional connection between the siblings. Furthermore, sometimes, emotionally poignant moments in the storyline were not executed to their full potential; consequently, the play missed opportunities to elicit strong emotions in the audience.
One thing the show lacked was emotional connections between different characters. While the connection between Miss Price and Mr Browne developed nicely and ended up believable and uplifting, the development of their relationship is clunky throughout the play. There was a lack of emotion at some really striking moments in the play; one example is when Paul gives Miss Price the Nopeepo book (his sole possession) to enable her to get the book of spells, or when Charlie shows his siblings that everything is a dream. The connection between the siblings seemed practically non-existent, which is problematic—after the children lost their parents, one would expect them to be closer and more emotional than they appeared. There were also instances where Miss Price did not connect well with the children. For example, when she talked to an emotional Charlie, his emotions were attributed to his age rather than the trauma of losing his parents.
Despite these disappointments, the play was amazing overall. The songs are beautifully sung, the costumes are wonderful, and the dances are perfectly executed. The stage effects are amazing, and the performance will leave you singing for days! It is a shame that there is a lack of connection between the characters. However, do not let this put you off from seeing this show. Understandably, the plotline and character development had less emphasis, as the plotline is only a component of the musical art form, but the overall spectacle is still magical and riveting.
The show ran from the 16th to the 20th of February 2022 at the Festival Theatre, showing at Evenings from Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30 pm, Matinees Thursday and Saturday at 2:30 PM, and Sunday 1PM and 5 PM.
Image of the Bedknobs and Broomsticks company by Johan Persson. Courtesy of Capital Theatres.