Disney has revamped several of its movies — The Lion King, Newsies, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, Tarzan — as stage plays, Broadway musicals, to be specific. The latest film to be turned into a Broadway musical is the Oscar-winning Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). The original film starred Dame Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast, Aunt Adelaide in Nanny McPhee) as Eglantine Price, an apprentice witch who attempts to use her half-learnt mail-order magic classes to stop the Nazis in World War II. Because of the Blitzkrieg, three children have been evacuated from London to live with Miss Price in the relative safety of the English countryside. The Pevensie children went to live with Professor Kirke in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the same reason.
Dame Angela Lansbury is an icon of screen and stage (Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast, Nancy in Gaslight, Princess Gwendolyn in The Court Jester, Mrs. Claus in Mrs. Santa Claus, Aunt Adelaide in Nanny McPhee, the Balloon Lady in Mary Poppins Returns). Dianne Pilkington will be playing Miss Price in the play.
The stage-play version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks will be opening off-Broadway. Quite a bit off Broadway, in Newcastle upon Tyne’s Theatre Royal. If it does well in northeastern England, it will come south to London and eventually cross the Atlantic and come to New York City’s Broadway.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is loosely based upon two books by Mary Norton, best known as the author of The Borrowers series of books: The Magic Bedknob and Bonfires and Broomsticks.
Turning a movie that is a mixture of live-action and animation into a stage play will not be an easy endeavor. The special effects crew will have a difficult task ahead of them.
The three homesick children discover that prickly spinster Miss Price is secretly studying to be a witch. The Nazis invade England. With song and sorcery Miss Price defeats them. In addition to the Sherman Brothers songs from the Bedknobs and Broomsticks movie, the stage production will have new songs by Shakespeare in Love stage composer Neil Bartram.
With summer reading programs starting at libraries across the country, you might want to take your favorite children to the library and check out The Magic Bedknob or Bonfires and Broomsticks.
A large portion of the original movie wound up on the cutting room floor. At least one song and a subplot involving a vicar who wants to marry Miss Price (he covets her land and cottage) were cut from the film when Radio City Music Hall complained it was too long. Perhaps those missing bits will be reinstated into the play.
The play is scheduled to debut August 14, 2021at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle upon Tyne. English actress Dianne Pilkington will play Eglantine Price and Charles Brunton will be Professor Browne (David Tomlinson in the film). After Newcastle upon Tyne, Bedknobs and Broomsticks will tour the UK and Ireland until May 2022.
How well do you think Bedknobs and Broomsticks will translate to the stage? Will you see it on Broadway, in London, or Newcastle upon Tyne? If a touring company comes to your town, will you go see the on-stage version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks?
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.