Thursday, October 6

Bedknobs and Broomsticks – Liverpool Empire

As someone who has never seen Bedknobs and Broomsticks (I know, I know, I feel like I missed out on many a cult classic) I was worried that I wouldn’t love the musical as much as someone who has nostalgia on their side.

I needn’t have worried.

I can hand on heart say that that was one of the most beautiful and magical shows I have ever seen in my life – or beauti-cal as our 3 heroes (Charles, Carrie and Paul) would say.

We start the show with a bang, quite literally, in a breath-taking sequence of physical theatre. Beginning with the three children happily in their cosy bedroom, their mother and father saying goodnight before a sudden explosion tears their home, and lives, apart. There’s no time to gather their thoughts as we follow them, silently, as they leave the broken streets of London, are forced onto a train and end up in the countryside as so many evacuees did at the time. This scene is executed brilliantly with the constant flow of elaborate set pieces, transformed deftly by the talented chorus come stagehands.

Credit: Johan Persson

The children are taken in by Eglantine Price, played to perfection by Dianne Pilkington, an eccentric apprentice witch, with a mission to help the war effort. Through the show Pilkington did not miss a note, her voice incredible, and warmth radiating from her without being saccharine.

In fact, there wasn’t a weak link in the crew. The children sparkled with raw talent, and I am certain that this isn’t the last we have seen of them. The puppeteers (Mark Anderson as Sherman, a Bear; Rob Madge as Norton, a Fish; Emma Thornett, Angela, a bird and Johnathan Cobb as King Leonidas, a Lion) brought their individual characters to life effortlessly. Charles Brunton played his Emelius Browne with the perfect balance of dorky and hapless and incredibly loveable and endearing.

The magic of the set and staging was almost like a character in and of itself. Only allowing you to see exactly what they intended for you to see at any time, from the moment Mrs Price’s new broomstick takes off, I was in – trusting unflinchingly.

The musical numbers were not quite the earworms of other popular shows but still very charming, especially the electric Portobello Market and quirky Negotiality.

A stunning adventure of whimsy, juxtaposed on the backdrop of a mid-war Britain. Three spirited, sweet and strong siblings, navigating the loss of their parents and taking solace in magical worlds. The show has moments of real heartbreak, as well as cartoonish joy and silliness. It’s in this contrast that the real magic is found. A magic that we need more than ever right now.

There is a soul-destroying twist added to the stage show which I’m told was not part of the movie and after falling in love with the story, I genuinely felt it in the pit of my stomach, which is a real testament to the show of course. That said, in true Disney-style, I left the theatre feeling electric and desperate to tell everyone about the incredible show I had just witnessed.

If you want to experience the magic too, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is on in Liverpool at the Empire until Saturday 26th February.

Reviewer: Codie Wright

Reviewed: 23rd February 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★