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Hannah Millbank takes her seven year old son to his first musical, a new production of a Disney classic

A huge fan of musicals when I was a child, I’ve been waiting for the moment I can introduce my children to them. And this was it. Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks the Musical, started its UK tour at the Bristol Hippodrome this week where it is running until Saturday 29 January.

Did it disappoint? Not at all. Not by the look of the huge grin on my seven-year-old’s face as he applauded wildly while the cast waved and bowed goodbye. And his grin wasn’t the only giveaway, throughout the performance there was pointing, giggling, mouth-gaping and gasps aplenty as the stage came alive with dance, song and a little bit of magic thrown in for good measure.

Of course, many of us will remember the 1971 Disney film, that tells the story of the Rawlins’ siblings, Charlie, Carrie and Paul, as they’re whisked off to the country during the blitz to be looked after by apprentice witch Eglantine Price. What follows is a glimpse into the imagination of these three newly orphaned children, as they dream of a new life filled with magic, adventure and, poignantly, no more bombs.

Photo: Johan Persson

The stage version is no less magical. And in fact, 12 hours on, I am still scratching my head as to how the set designers managed to make a full-sized double-bed, along with five people sat on top, apparently float and move easily above the stage. Along with some more traditional magic tricks, involving rabbits, hats, scarves and fire, the show draws you in from the start and has you scanning the stage for little details you just don’t want to miss.

Set against the backdrop of war, any scenes that make reference to this are handled subtly enough that the age recommendation of six and above is wholly appropriate. While lights and sounds create a dramatic atmosphere at the start, my seven-year-old, who is easily spooked, understood what was happening without being afraid. Besides, the introduction of a broomstick with a mind of its own, inexplicably bouncing and spinning across the stage, quickly transports the audience to a world away from war.

The first act concludes with a sensational full-cast performance of song and dance, taking us to the heart of the buzz, excitement and characters of London’s Portobello market. It’s here, after meeting the charismatic magician Professor Emelius Browne, that the children and their unlikely but charming guardians go in search of a spell-book that will give them the answers to stop the fighting.

Photo: Johan Persson

After an interval filled with questions (“Were they really flying, Mum… in real life?”), we entered an even more fantastical place. Noboombu is a colourful world, ruled by a fearsome lion, in which our heroes and heroines encounter a toothy, talking fish and the grown-ups enter a dance competition to win a viewing with the King. What ensues is a scene that combines enough sparkle and sequins to do Strictly proud, and some entertaining moves that are complemented by a group of flashing fish as backing dancers.

By the end, my son was whooping, cheering, jumping and standing with the rest of the audience, sad to say goodbye to the utterly delightful characters. Mesmerised by the whole evening, his only complaint was that we chose chocolate instead of popcorn and the fact that his little brother hadn’t been able to join us… this time. And with that, perhaps the magic of musical theatre has him hooked too. I couldn’t have wished for more.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks runs at the Bristol Hippodrome until 29 January. For more information and tickets, click here.