Award-winning theatre-makers Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison have cast a spell, transforming a childhood classic into a new must-see musical.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is flying across the country on a musical tour, opening at our very own Palace Theatre this week for a world premiere.
A proper classic, production for the original film was given the green light by Disney studios in 1969 and received five Academy Awards in 1971.
Now, for the first time ever, a stage musical adaption of Mary Norton’s fantasy is being shown in theatres across the country.
The Manc was lucky enough to go see the magic unfold.
Michael Harrison’s stage adaption is a force to be reckoned with. Energetic, imaginative, and fun for all – it’s sure to become the nation’s new favourite.
The Palace Theatre was packed and as the house lights lowered a spooky murmur spread across the audience. Being the first stage performance of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, to say this production had some high expectations to meet is an understatement.
But, wow, Brian Hill’s adaption went above and beyond (there is literally a floating bed).
Seeing the original story come back to life was a pleasure for all, especially in such capable hands. The production also stayed loyal to the Disney classic in all the right places.
The set design was nothing short of magical and had audiences marveling at one another in the interval.
Co-director and set designer James Harrison also designed the set on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Harrison certainly possessed the sorcery needed to conjure the magical land of ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ on stage.
The iconic bed floated inexplicably above the auditorium glowing with colour and light. Miss Price commands an army of floating clothes while soaring over the audience on a broomstick. A hungry lion, a fishing bear, and a flustered bird were masterfully brought to life through puppetry. Actors turned into white rabbits and back again so seamlessly that gasps were heard followed by applause after every trick.
With these special effects, it was hard not to start believing.
West-End star Dianne Pilkington (Glinda in Wicked and Donna in Mamma Mia!) is back on the stage for the first time to play the mysterious witch Eglantine Price. A role known and loved to be Angela Lansbury’s who played Eglantine in the film, Pilkington had mighty shoes to fill.
But only Dianne Pilkington could have filled them.
Pilkington approaches the role with confidence and fresh energy. She captures the attention of all audience members through her unfailing vocal abilities and witty interpretation of the character. We couldn’t take our eyes off her.
Charles Brunton (Miss Trunchball in Matilda) played the con artist Emelius Brown with all the charm of a quintessential shabby Englishman. Brunton is the perfect match for Pilkington and the two danced around each other with perfect ease, a duo we would like to see again.
The Rawlins, three orphans evacuated from London and reluctantly adopted by Miss Price, were played by (Connor O’Hara, Evie Lightman, and Jasper Hawes). The children played their roles with sensitivity and were all strong vocal talents.
New songs and additional music and lyrics by Neil Bartram were a grand success. ‘Nobody’s Problem’ proved the five-core actor’s strength as an ensemble, their choral harmonisations added to the heart-wrenching sadness of Bartram’s lyrics.
Sherman Brother classics including ‘Age of Not Believing’ and ‘The Beautiful Briny’ made a comeback. Combined with being old favourites and the added verve of theatricality, you wondered why this was their first time being performed on stage.
But it was ‘Portobello Road’ that stole the show. Costumes dazzled with glitter, chorus members whirled around on carts and the detailed choreography won it The Manc’s song of the show.
The play was granted the standing ovation it deserved. Whoops and cheers shook the auditorium.
Home to lavish musicals and pantomimes since the beginning of the 20th Century, The Palace Theatre was the perfect place for Bedknobs and Broomsticks to open in Manchester.
The Palace has put on thousands of performances, but Bedknobs and Broomsticks is sure to become a gem in the crown jewels.
Grab your tickets for its run in Manchester here. Or if not, you can chase it as it flies round the rest of the country here.
Manchester dates: October 19 – 24
Directors: Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison
Running Time: 2 hours
Featured Image – Johan Persson
Look around brand new Coronation Street set as ITV unveils Weatherfield Precinct
The Coronation Street set has had a massive expansion, with a new Weatherfield Precinct unveiled today.
The location has often been name-checked in the popular soap, but for the first time, cast members will be able to film scenes there.
The set won’t hit our screens until 13 January – but The Manc headed down for a little sneak peek.
The two-storey Weatherfield Precinct set is built around a children’s play park, with a row of shops carefully constructed by the Coronation Street set designers.
There’s everything from a charity shop to a Chinese takeaway to a dessert bar.
Above the shops sits a row of maisonettes with a balcony running in front.
There’s incredible attention to detail throughout, from the litter on the floor (which includes a packet of a fictitious crisp brand) to the fake sausage rolls in the bakery windows to the washing lines nailed to the walls.
Everything has been deliberately weathered and aged, so it looks like it’s been there for decades rather than carefully built in 2022.
The new Weatherfield Precinct set was unveiled today by members of the cast including Jack P Shepherd, Sally Dynevor, Antony Cotton, Jimmi Harkishin, Daniel Brocklebank, Channique Sterling-Brown, Elle Mulvaney, Tanisha Gorey, James Craven and Colson Smith.
It’s been added as an extension to the existing iconic set, which spans 7.7 acres near MediaCityUK.
Producer Iain MacLeod said: “Hats off to our design and construction teams who have conjured a totally convincing new precinct for our drama! They took their inspiration from Salford’s many real-world, late 20th century shopping areas and what they have created is a brilliant, characterful space to tell a diverse range of stories.
“Expect to see teens hanging out at the dessert shop, families enjoying the play area and, after dark, a rogues’ gallery, up to shady business in the ginnels. I am really excited by the arrival on screen of this much discussed but never seen corner of the Weatherfield universe.”
Head of design Rosie Mullins explained the process: “Back in 2013 Coronation Street moved into its new home at Media City. With this move came exciting potential to continue to develop and expand our Weatherfield Community onsite.
“The first expansion came in the form of Victoria Street and Weatherfield Police Station builds back in 2018.
“In February 2021 I set about the first pencil drawings for a very exciting new exterior build – Weatherfield Precinct. We have often heard about this precinct and although we have filmed over the years at a range of shopping locations, we had never established our own Weatherfield Precinct.
“It had always intrigued me – what would it look like and who would we find there? The opportunity to bring to life a colourful and grittier area of Weatherfield was so exciting!
“Weatherfield Precinct was inspired by the 1960s shopping precincts that we see across many areas of the UK. In designing this the team gathered hundreds of images with a particular focus given to those in our local Manchester and Salford area. I wanted there to be aspects of the Precinct that people from all walks of life identify with and recognise. I wanted it to reflect how communities develop but aspects of them can also feel like stepping back in time.
“In this Precinct we find an array of businesses, a playground, residential flats, a small ginnel, Weatherfield community hub and a very colourful community recycling centre.
“Working with Iain on what the writing team needs from the Precinct has meant that we have managed to pack so much into this new set! I cannot wait to see the arrival onscreen of Sweety Nuff dessert & milkshake shop, Gregory Pope Foundation Charity Shop, Rutlands bakery, Pound Outlet and Bargainanza Pawnbrokers.
“The most incredible part of this has been watching this build rise from a small car park with a mass of ugly steel, concrete and timber to the beautifully constructed, characterful 1960s 2 storey precinct that we see today.
“This build has been one of the most enjoyable builds that we have undertaken and showcases the many behind the scenes talents that the programme has to offer. I am incredibly proud of the detail, the quality of the build and for what it offers for future storytelling for the show. I am also so very proud of how it was brought to life by our in-house talented Design Team.”
Featured image: The Manc Grop
Man uncovers long lost photos in charity shop depicting historic suffragette march
Whilst digging away in a charity shop, a man has uncovered a set of old Victorian era glass slides depicting what appears to be Women’s Sunday – a suffragette march held in London, organised by Moss Side’s own Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
Amongst a heap of slides that appear to be taken sometime around the early 1900s, one depicts a large group featuring women in the signature stripy hats worn by the protest group.
What’s more their new owner, Ray Newman, has even suggested that one of the photos may depict Emmeline Pankhurst herself.
Writing on Twitter, he shared a thread of the images with his followers: adding short commentary to each one.
One the photo in question, he comments: “If you zoom in on the woman in dark clothing seen looking towards the camera from between two PCs she looks like Emmeline Pankhurst, or am I fooling myself?”
Others have chimed in with suggestions as to the date of the photograph, with one writing: “The boater straw hats plus mutton sleeves equals c.1910.”
Given that the Women’s Sunday protest was held just two years prior to this in 1908, it does seem possible that this incredibly old photograph has captured one of the biggest moments in the suffragette’s history.
The event, organised by Pankhurst’s WSPU, featured the organisation’s colours (purple, white and green) for the first time in public. In days leading up to the event, over 10,000 scarves in the colours were sold at two shillings and elevenpence each, whilst men donned ties in solidarity.
Held to persuade the then Liberal government to support votes for women, the march is thought to have been the largest demonstration to be held until then in the country – drawing around 30,000 women marched to Hyde Park in seven processions.
Of course, the photos not being dated or marked in any way, it is hard to know if these really are images of Emmeline Pankhurst and the historic march but there are quite a few people online speculating that it could well be.
Several have pointed to the seemingly large police presence (and one person claims to have counted eleven officers), suggesting that that could indeed point to it being a photograph of a large suffragette protest.
Elsewhere amongst the collection of photos, images show a stately home, school or institution with flamingos outside, what appears to be a boy scout troop or group of cadets armed with rifles, boaters on the water at Alexandra Park, and a number of people posing in period dress.
Writing above a picture that depicts an old British high street, Ray comments on how the glass slides are tricky to scan adding that he had to “do it with my phone against a bright white screen.”
He continues: “This is a high street… somewhere… c.1910, I’d guess. I can see a sign for an inn with an ‘excellent motor garage’ but can’t work out any more than that.”
Above another, he said: “A stately home, school or institution. There are statues of flamingos on the left. Definitely haunted. (House and slide.)”
Offering a fascinating look into a lost world, some of the images are over 100 years old and taken when photography was something of a new art form. Unlike today, when everyone has a camera in their pocket, to own a camera was something of a rarity – making these images even more intriguing.
If you would like to see the full thread of pictures uncovered by Ray, you can do so by clicking here.