If you’re not familiar with Julia Donaldson’s “Room on the Broom”, let me give you the gist. It’s a story about a witch on a journey who picks up a random cast of characters along the way…a bit like a road movie or “Wizard of Oz”. She’s one of the good witches, though. Eva was fully committing to a theme, so in 25c dressed head-to-ankle in black and glitter for that witchy look:
We were heading for the Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. Not to be confused with the Lyric Hammersmith. I did get slightly confused trying to find the right exit at Piccadilly Circus because there were signs for Shaftesbury Avenue pointing in both directions. Also because it’s circular and I’m easily confused. We did get to revisit this tribute to Frank Pick tho:
Lyric is a few minutes away from the station. The signs outside are for the Bob Marley musical but it’s where “Room on the Broom” is on too as the two shows are sharing the space.
As I say, I’m easily confused but the gaggle of parents and toddlers outside persuaded me that we were in the right place. And it’s all set up for little ones – there’s a designated storage area as you go in for folded buggies and a pile of booster seats in the theatre itself.
Eva was mainly absorbed with looking at the “very fancy” decor and specifically the giant chandelier:
But soon enough, the light were dimmed and the show started. As you might guess, the plot is expanded out a bit from the source material to fill the 60-minute runtime. It starts with a group of campers who spot something suspiciously broom-like streaking across the sky. I really like how the actors in this scene had little hints to the parts they would play in the main story. One of the men had a Welsh-flag hat with a prominent red dragon. And Jessica Manu wore a grey hat with a pink bobble, which matched the pink flower that would later appear on her witch’s hat. Also, next time I go camping I want a sleeping bag suit.
The set was simple – probably because of the timeshare with Bob Marley – but effective, with broomsticks woven into the background. The actors were high-energy and always seemed to be in motion, especially once the puppet characters were introduced. The more characters that appeared, the more complex the logistical challenges must have been but they were passed seamlessly from actor to the other with only one noticeable glitch, which was more amusing than offputting (a good ad lib from Jake Waring made this possibly my favourite part of the whole show)
Apart from that, the show flowed perfectly. I enjoyed the dynamics between witch and cat particularly as they verged from affection to annoyance and back again, usually with a peace offering of a jelly baby. As I mentioned earlier, the plot was hugely fleshed out from the original book and all the characters given a bit of depth and motivation. The dog, who I seem to remember is only described as “keen” in the book, gets a whole song about wanting to howl at the moon, on the moon. Similarly, the bird (originally only “green”) has a song about being left behind during a migration….and an accent that seemed straight out of EastEnders. There isn’t a lot of closure around whether the bird ever made it to the French Riveria or whether the dog made it to the moon but you can’t expect all the plot threads to be tied up within 60 minutes. The dog’s story did prompt a reference to Laika the space dog, though, which made me sad for a full week last time I thought about her (thanks Bridget Christie!) I’ll try and move on more quickly this time.
On the subject of the dog though, you can guess who Eva’s favourite character was. As the dog was playing fetch with the witch’s hat but refusing to let go of it, Eva leaned over and whispered in my ear “that is so realistic!”. And she very much agreed with the dog’s song where he said that he was a Good Boy. Most deserving of tummy tickles.
Eva was slightly older than most of the audience but there was plenty of action to keep an older kid’s attention and she enjoyed some of the gags that were aimed at the adults, such as the Bohemian Rhapsody reference. She enjoyed joining in with the “Whoosh”es as the broom took off, and the “Iggety ziggety zaggety zoom” song at the end. It was a show that never took itself too seriously, which is perfect for the start of the holidays where I think all our kids are just ready to kick back and have some fun. And this show has fun by the broomload. Whether it’s sassy frogs or adorable dogs, there will be something to love.
After the show, we got to have a witch-some cupcake and meet the cast, which was awesome. You’ll be pleased to know that I made sure Eva washed her hands between the purple icing and attempting to tummy-tickle the dog.
As we left the theatre, we were stopped by some tourists asking where the theatre for “Wicked” was. Clearly, they thought that Eva’s witch’s hat made her an expert on all witch-related musicals. I said I thought it was at the Apollo in Victoria and pointed vaguely at a number 38 bus. I realise now that there’s an Apollo theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue and they’d probably gone to the wrong one. Told you these same-named theatres can be confusing!
McDonalds was also confusing as there were no ordering screens so I had to order Eva’s McPlant burger from a real live person and forgot all the customisations she normally does. And the stairs were being constantly mopped and I had too much in my hands to hold on, so that was a challenge too. But somehow, I got the child fed and myself fed and we even picked up some cool new shades for Eva, which she modelled on the way to another theatre production this afternoon.
I did go the wrong way on the Bakerloo line though. The train was there and we jumped on without really looking where we were going. The only time I’ve ever gone the wrong direction on the tube before was also on the Bakerloo line and possibly even at Piccadilly Circus or maybe Charing Cross. That was about twenty years ago and I was reading a book while walking. Today I had no such excuse….I’m just a doofus.
I’ll leave you with something delightful I heard on the escalator down though as the girl behind us had just realised for the first time where the name “Bakerloo” came from.
“That’s amazing” she said “I can’t believe I never knew that. But why don’t all tube lines work the same way. Why isn’t it….I dunno….the AngelBridge line?”
Genius. I’m calling the Bank branch that from now on. Who’s with me?
Room on the Broom is on at the Lyric Theatre until 4th September. Click here for tickets and more info.
Disclaimer: I received free tickets (and a cupcake!) in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own.