Room on the Broom (Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue)

Room on the Broom (Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, until January 13th) 

A magical broomstick ride through one of the best-loved children’s books around makes a spellbinding return to the Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue this Christmas.

Tall Stories Theatre Company bring Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s best-selling book Room on the Broom to life wonderfully with infectious enthusiasm from the cast of four and the story is fleshed out just enough to hold the attention of young and old alike.

In this stage version four young hikers are disturbed at night by sounds which they think might be magic in the air, and this flows seamlessly into the recreation of the book and the story of a friendly witch and some animal friends who share a broomstick to go to the back of beyond to fight a hungry dragon.

It is a show with instant appeal to little ones, who will enjoy the silliness, and to older ones who will enjoy the songs and puppets and get the point about being kind and welcoming to everyone. Grown-ups will also find much to enjoy in the humour and warmth of the production. Morgan Large’s imaginative design goes a long way to making the beautiful illustrations live and breathe.

The interplay between the four performers shows how much they are enjoying it and this familiarity with each other and the story as well as the ease with which they engage with the family audience adds still more to the relaxed atmosphere.

The puppets are an undoubted hit with Charlie Guest’s hilarious excitable dog (which does a moonwalk – a gentle nod to the production of Thriller playing at the venue in the evenings) and country and western singing frog proving particularly popular and winning wild applause. Yvonne Stone’s puppets are a big feature of the show, and we also have the chance to enjoy a friendly green bird, manipulated by Andrew Mudie, who also plays a mean dragon.

Amy Harris as the scatterbrained but chummy witch has a touch of Miranda Hart about her as she gallops charmingly through the role, with Emma Crowley-Bennett as her sidekick ginger cat growing increasingly jealous as others squeeze onto the broomstick.

Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw’s songs are catchy and jaunty with plenty of opportunities to join in and director Olivia Jacobs ensures the tireless energy doesn’t ever flag and the core story is never forgotten.

With a zoom and a whoosh this is a gratifying recreation of an award-winning picture book which translates wonderfully into a stage show and will assuredly enchant all who see it.

David Guest 

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