Within two minutes of Bedknobs and Broomsticks hitting the Hull New Theatre stage on Tuesday evening, the stage setting fell apart.
An almighty cock-up? No, just the most amazing and dramatic opening of any theatre production I have ever witnessed.
It was breath-taking and the whole musical continued in the same vein throughout. Take a bow, set and illusion designer, Jamie Harrison, not forgetting the associate scenic and puppet designer Kenneth MacLeod (more of the puppets later).
We in the packed theatre were transported to the dark years of the Second World War, hence the aforementioned stage setting collapse, the result of bombing on the London home of the Rawlins family.
The three children, orphaned in the tragedy, are packed off to the safety of the countryside.
Thirteen-year-old Charlie (Conor O’Hara) is now the guardian of his younger siblings – Carrie (Poppy Houghton) and the youngest, Paul (Jasper Hawes).
I must mention here that these three are shining little superstars who performed brilliantly throughout, with clear and loud diction and wonderful singing voices.
In the countryside, the three find themselves in the, reluctant, care of Eglantine Price (an Oscar-winning performance by Dianne Pilkington).
One night the children witness trainee witch, Miss Price, flying on her broomstick. And fly high she really does.
The three, intrigued by this mysterious woman, soon get into all sorts of magical scrapes with her.
The witch’s plan is to use a spell that will halt the war in its tracks. But to do that she needs to find the other half of a spell book – which she believes her magic teacher, one Professor Emelius Browne has in his possession.
By this time the intrepid foursome – Miss Price and the Rawlins kids – all work together to utilise a spell that lights up a bedknob, in turn making the bedstead fly to London to confront the Professor. And believe it or not, like the broomstick, the bed really does fly; and quite high, too.
The Professor (a very entertaining and memorable performance by the all-singing, all-dancing Charles Brunton) has sold the book and what ensues is the most amazing spectacle as the group try to find the book’s buyer down the Portobello Road.
In fact, every scene in this spellbinding production is amazing. We had wonderful puppets in the form of a lion, a bear, a bird and a giant fish, all operated by very talented puppeteers.
A shoal of illuminated fish surrounded the magical bed – now carrying Miss Price, the Professor and the children – in the most wonderful underwater scenes.
When the Professor took his boots off, they danced around before our very eyes. Such eye-popping, magical moments abounded.
The memorable songs added to the experience – Negotiality, Portobello Road and The Beautiful Briny are stand-out tunes, all accompanied by live music from a magnificent orchestra.
The stage setting – one of the best I’ve seen – continuously changed before our very eyes, aided and abetted by dramatic lighting and special effects.
The three children, Miss Price and the Professor face many unforgettable adventures before a conclusion is reached.
The conclusion I reached is that Bedknobs and Broomsticks fully deserved the prolonged standing ovation it received. I couldn’t fault it.
Running until Saturday, April 16th, 2022, 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinees on Wednesday, 13th, Thursday, 14th and Saturday, 16th. Tickets from £20, call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 12th April 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★