‘Must be the most sumptuous-looking touring show of the year’: Mark Shenton gives an update on theatre openings including the Bedknobs & Broomsticks tour

In Broadway, Features, London theatre, Musicals, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Quotes, Regional theatre, Reviews, Touring by Mark ShentonLeave a Comment

Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily. I hope everyone had a great bank holiday weekend.

THIS WEEK’S OPENINGS:

Rockets and Blue Lights (National’s Dorfman Theatre) 25 August-9 October, press night 2 September. Winsome Pinnock’s play is co-produced with Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre where the play had to close in March 2020 having played only three previews.

Statements after an Arrest Under the Immorality Act (Orange Tree Theatre, 28 August- 2 October, press night September 2). The annual JMK Award for emerging theatre directors has been won by Diane Page, who will direct Athol Fugard’s classic.

Fever Pitch (Hope Theatre, London N1, 31 August- 25 September, press night September 2). Joel Samuels’ adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel about his own obsession with Arsenal Football Club is to be the first – and last – in-house show at Islington’s Hope Theatre to be directed by outgoing artistic director Kennedy Bloomer.

BROADWAY: Hadestown (Walter Kerr Theatre) Resuming performances from 2 September, the 2019 Tony-winning Best Musical returns. In a press statement, producers Mara Isaacs, Dale Franzen, Hunter Arnold, and Tom Kirdahy, commented:

“For the past 15 months, ‘spring will come again,’ has become our mantra. Anaïs Mitchell’s elegant lyric has gotten us through a year of profound change, soul searching, and more than a few sleepless nights… Bringing Hadestown back to stages all over the globe is a fundamental celebration of theater’s survival, about the power of this beloved art form, and the strength of millions of arts workers who are bringing it back to life. It will be an honor to sit in the audience on Thursday, September 2 at the Kerr and see fans welcome our cast, crew, and band back to the stage where they belong.”

BROADWAY: Waitress (Ethel Barrymore Theatre). The Broadway musical version of Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film, scored by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles with a book by Jessie Nelson, returns to Broadway after closing on schedule just ahead of the pandemic’s arrival, with Bareilles herself initially returning in the lead role of Jenna that she has previously played both on Broadway and reprised in the West End, for performances from 2 September-17 October.

BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS:

A new touring stage version of the 1971 Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks held a national press night last Friday at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre, after previewing beforehand at Newcastle Theatre Royal. The tour is currently booking to May 2022.

REVIEWS:
The Times (4*, by Dominic Maxwell): “It’s a big season for musicals taken from films, with Back to the Future and Frozen also opening in the West End. If either of them match the vim and theatricality of this spectacular based on the 1971 Disney film, the year is looking up. What you fear, at a show like this, is the original, but less so. What its British directors, Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison, do is give us a theatre show that looks thrilled to be a theatre show. … Crucially, Dianne Pilkington is outstanding: she makes a highly technical role look effortless, sings beautifully and lends Price strength and tenderness, too. A B-list Disney film, perhaps, but an A-list adaptation.”

Daily Telegraph (4*, by Domminic Cavendish): “You wait Covid-protracted ages for a dash of Disney stage-magic and all at once you get a meteor-shower’s worth. Mary Poppins is back in the West End. Incoming at Drury Lane is Frozen. And out on the road, in what must be the most sumptuous-looking touring show of the year, Bedknobs and Broomsticks brings to life a film that has delighted many since its 1971 premiere but has never had its moment of definitive creative realisation…
There’s a welter of wonder-inducing visual trickery….”

Daily Mail (3*, by Patrick Marmion): “Truth be told, it’s a little too dependent on magic. A mash-up of Mary Poppins and The Wizard Of Oz, with touches of Narnia, Candice Edmunds’s lively production tries to plump up the slightly flimsy plot with a constant procession of props – including clouds and trees above and below the flying bed. Director of illusions Jamie Harrison conjures up a genuinely impressive display of tricks. I couldn’t for the life of me see how the broomstick danced with no strings attached. Nor could my beady-eyed daughter figure out how they launched the glowing bed. And there’s a blizzard of airborne uniforms, flags and swords for the climactic battle.But while they’ve totally cracked the magic, me and my child consultant daughter (11) were a little underwhelmed by the Sherman brothers’ songs…. Judged best for under-11s by my daughter, it’s still a likeable show that will leave you with a warm glow.”
The Guardian (2*, by Chris Wiegand): “Devotees of the film, adapted from Mary Norton’s books, may well be wondering: what are the new songs like, how does Dianne Pilkington fare as Price (indelibly portrayed by Angela Lansbury) and what about Cosmic Creepers, one of cinema’s rattiest cats? Taken in order: the songs catch the brisk jollity of the Sherman brothers’ originals but lack the instantly hummable quality; Pilkington, dressed smartly by designer Gabriella Slade, brings brusque wit as her distaste for the children dissolves into affection; regrettably, her cranky feline companion is referenced only by an oil painting… Bedknobs and Broomsticks seems a touch cumbersome but it may yet begin to bob along as it proceeds on tour.”
TODAY’S THEATRE BIRTHDAYS

SEE YOU TOMORROW…See you in your inbox or here online tomorrow morning. But if you can’t wait that long, you can find me on Twitter (though not as often on weekends as on weekdays):  Twitter.com/ShentonStage

The post ShentonSTAGE Daily for TUES AUG 31 first appeared on Shenton Stage.

Mark Shenton on FacebookMark Shenton on RssMark Shenton on Twitter
Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.
Read more...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mark Shenton on FacebookMark Shenton on RssMark Shenton on Twitter
Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.

Leave a Comment