Room on the Broom at the Lyric Shaftesbury Avenue
There is a dragon about, and he’s hunting witches, so who better to get him to stop than… a witch? Room On the Broom is an hour-long musical for children, which manages a fairly faithful adaptation of the popular storybook by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
On her journey to confront the dragon (Daniel Foxsmith), the witch (Yvette Clutterbuck) meets several animal companions who all, mostly unwittingly, come along to help. All but one of these (Emma MacClennan’s cat) are skilfully portrayed through puppetry, which all the cast (literally) has a hand in. The result is a joyful absurdity, which is at its best in catering to kids. But that doesn’t bar it from moments of impressive realism, the most memorable of which is an early game of tug with the dog (David Garrud).
The cast has an excellent energy about them, and a brilliant manner with children. The level of interactivity feels almost like pantomime, but without being shackled to the actual conventions of pantomime.
True to that form, the script doesn’t leave the adults out. There is plenty to entertain the parents and guardians, especially those with a little knowledge of the West End. Along with the occasional and expected double-entendre, there were references to Queen, Tom Jones (the dragon is Welsh, of course), Shirley Bassey and others to keep the oldies chuckling. But this comes as no surprise – the script seems very fluid, and it would not be surprising to find that it is tweaked from location to location.
This also seemed reflected in the stage design. The set, while striking, was somewhat minimal for a West End show, but in a venue that runs other shows (Thriller was even name-checked during the performance), it is understandable that designer Morgan Large went for something that could easily be set up and taken down.
The music by Jon Fiber, Andy Shaw and Robin Price is mostly pastiche but is catchy and enjoyable. The bluegrass hoedown with the frog (also by Garrud) was particularly fun. The variety in the music was also found in the cast’s accents, which were good and usually managed well, apart from one moment when in conversation with himself, Garrud muddled the accents. It was recovered well, but it wasn’t deliberate…!
Room on the Broom is perfect for kids, entertaining for adults, and may be a good alternative to seeing another pantomime this winter season.
Room on the Broom is on at the Lyric Shaftesbury Theatre until 11th January 2015, for further information or to book visit here.