Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If there’s one thing theatre audiences love, it’s a Disney adaptation. From full-scale productions such as the long-running Lion King to the newly opened five-star smash, Frozen, right through to magical musical numbers and glittering finale scenes in local pantos; Disney’s influence runs right through British family theatre and is often the first theatrical experience many children have.

Latest adaptation, Bedknobs and Broomsticks flew into Manchester’s this week, stopping at the Palace Theatre on it’s World Premiere UK tour, amazing to think despite celebrating it’s 50th anniversary there’s never been a full-scale production before!

While the lesser recreated of the Sherman Brothers penned Disney hits (Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) it’s charm and appeal have made it a firm favourite for fans, while it’s classic score is still a childhood staple. Yes, the plot is a bit bonkers at times, but for many that’s a huge part of this cult classic’s charm.

Film fans will be happy to hear that this stage adaptation remains largely faithful to the film with some padding out of backstories which works beautifully.

Set in the 1940’s, evacuees and siblings Charlie, Carrie and Paul have been sent to the countryside after losing their parents during an air raid in London. Miss Eglantine Price takes them in and they soon discover all is not as it seems as apprentice witch Price reveals she just needs one final spell from former tutor Professor Emelius Browne in order to use her magic in a bid to help the war effort. With the help of an enchanted bedknob their adventures begin!

Additional songs by Neil Bartram fit well with the much-loved classics, Portobello Road, The Beautiful Briny, The Age Of Not Believing and my personal favourite Substitutiary Locamotion with new addition Negotiality feeling like it’s been there all along.

Jamie Harrison’s impressive set and dazzling illusions really add to the magic of the piece. The bed really does fly as does Miss Price who swoops up into the air on her broomstick and as for the final battle scene, well seeing really is believing!

Gabriella Slade’s costumes are stunning, intricate, elaborate and utterly gorgeous while there’s a wonderful use of puppetry weaved into the production. Designer Kenneth MacLeod has created some spectacular puppets while the cast bringing them magically to living, breathing life. Norton the Fish portrayed fabulously by Rob Madge deserving of a spin off show of their own! While actors being turned into rabbits right before your eyes is a whole lot of fun! This really is physical theatre at its finest.

Dianne Pilkington is sublime as Miss Englantine Price, witty, charismatic and with a voice that’s pure perfection. Charles Brunton compliments her wonderfully as Emelius Browne, his eccentricities and magic skills endearing him to the audience immediately.

Conor O’Hara gives eldest child Charlie true depth as he demonstrates powerfully the influence war has on the life of a child. His journey as Charlie breathing fresh ideas into to this classic tale.

The quieter moments are given the time that they deserve to be impactful while the big full ensemble numbers really take the entertainment levels up a notch. The Portabello Road scene and the Beautiful Briny dance competition are a joy and leave you wishing there were a few more full ensemble numbers to enjoy. I must also mention how wonderful it is to see such a representative cast on stage, more of this please!

The ensemble work hard in this show, moving sets and becoming scenery throughout. This took a little getting used to and on occasion felt like there was a little too much to look at. The pace of Act 1 slows a little at times while Act 2 burst into gorgeous, glittering life and before you know it the bows are being taken.

This is a beautifully crafted show, technically brilliant, superbly designed and wonderfully delivered. There’s peril, romance, incredible puppetry and thrilling magic. Film fans will come away happy while an army of new fans no doubt will be gained. An enchanting production which will delight young and old alike.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks is on at the Palace Theatre until Sunday 24th October tickets available here.

Disney on Ice – 100 Years of Magic

Reviewed by Kate Goerner

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From the hundreds of children dressed as their favourite Disney idol to the myriad of swirly flashy things lighting up the inside of Manchester Arena – it was definitely Disney on Ice time!

The always-popular ice spectacular is a staple of the family entertainment calendar, offering people the chance to get a glimpse of their Disney favourites without having to go to Paris or Florida. Throw in dazzling skating skills, gorgeous costumes and plenty of iconic Disney songs and you have all the elements for a magical night out.

This year’s Disney on Ice show is called 100 Years of Magic and sees a loose plot of Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy trying to decide on a movie to make – drawing inspiration from Disney‘s back catalogue of celluloid smashes.

Perhaps less Princess-centred than Disney on Ice shows I’ve seen before, 100 Years of Magic includes tributes to some absolute classics like Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin (why have one ice skating Genie when you can have 20!) The Lion King and more.

Of course there is the chance to see all the Princesses and their Princes skate as well as a fabulous extended section that gives the delighted audience Frozen in about 20 minutes – this is a real highlight with goosebumps galore as Elsa twirls and swoops across the ice to Let It Go. And it even snows!

Our other favourite bit was a simply gorgeous tribute to Mulan featuring a beautiful solo to Reflections followed by the very talented full company of skaters performing a stunning martial arts-inspired routine to I’ll Make a Man Out of You. This was followed by the entrance of an impressive Chinese Dragon onto the ice – that drew gasps from the audience.

But probably the crowd-pleasing cameo of the night was from Toy Story 4 scene-stealer Forky, whose arrival on the ice brought cheers of joy from the youngster sat around us. Indeed the whole Toy Story section was clearly a hit with the young fans of Woody, Buzz and the ‘plastic’ effect wigs on the toys were a nice witty touch too.

But the whole show was fantastic – a welcome bit of Disney magic delivered on skates. We had an absolute blast!

Further information, tickets and tour dates can be found here.

Preview | Disney on Ice

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Writer Kate Goerner

The ever-popular Disney on Ice spectacular returns to the rink at Manchester Arena next month – offering a timely opportunity to get a bit of Disney magic in your life in these unsettled times!
So why not grab those Mickey Ears and prepare to celebrate 100 Years of Magic in this all-new arena show that’s led by the Mouse-ter of Ceremonies (ahem, sorry!) Mickey Mouse with Minnie and lots of other pals and princesses alongside him.
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The family friendly production will be skating into Manchester from the 9th to 13th October and features more than 50 performers, a sing-along score of Disney musical masterpieces, exhilarating choreography and beautiful costumes and sets.
The show is packed with iconic Disney characters from much-loved films that Disney fans young and old will love seeing in the flesh – with added ice theatrics!
Audiences will travel to the heart of Africa with Disney’s The Lion King, come along for an adventure in friendship with the gang from DisneyPixar’s Toy Story, and watch as Belle breaks the Beast’s curse in the tale of Beauty & The Beast.
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And OR COURSE no Disney on Ice show would be complete without a trip to the kingdom of Arendelle from Disney’s Frozen and journey up the North Mountain with adorable snowman Olaf and hunky Kristoff, as they help royal sisters Anna and Elsa discover that true love conquers all.
Over 14 tales are featured, with some absolute classic songs like Hakuna Matata, You’ve Got A Friend in Me, Let It Go, At Last I See The Light, A Whole New World and loads more.
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Producer Kenneth Feld said: “This is a show, more than any other, which is truly for everybody. When I sit with the audience, I see those that are grandparents, like I am, enjoying a lot of the classic Disney stories, while young kids and parents really respond to modern day favourites like Frozen.”

Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic is produced by live family entertainment specialists Feld Entertainment.

Tickets and more information are available here.

Preview | Disney on Ice

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There’s no disputing the magic of Disney for little (and hey, who are we kidding, and big!) kids, and the regular visits by Disney on Ice bring a real element of enchantment to Manchester.

The popular arena shows give fans the chance to see some of their favourite Disney characters performing live on ice – bringing to life much-loved tales and songs from classic animated movies from over the years.

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This time round the show is billed Dream Big – and seems likely to make plenty of dreams come true for Disney fans, not least because the show brings the first appearance on skates by Moana, the most recent inspirational heroine from the House of Mouse.

Theatre fans will no doubt be aware that the Oscar-nominated Moana had songs co-written by Hamilton’s Lin Manuel Miranda, who is now clearly firmly part of the Disney family thanks to this, and his forthcoming role in Mary Poppins Returns.

Expect lots of excitement from Moana fans at seeing Disney’s latest heroine in Manchester – with Demi God Maui (brilliantly voiced by Dwayne Johnson in the movie) also promised to make an appearance.

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Also in the show – which features spectacular figure-skating, beautiful costumes and stunning sets – will be sections dedicated to classic tales including Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and more.

As well as – of course! – a suitably icy section dedicated to all things Frozen!

Opening Night also hears tales of a fire breathing dragon…….we can’t wait!

Disney on Ice presents Dream Big at the Manchester Arena from Wednesday 10th October until Sunday 14th October.

For more information visit www.disneyonice.co.uk