The National Theatre’s Christmas show is always a gamble. Having to compete with a plethora of pantos and a tsunami of saccharine musicals puts them in an invidious position.
Given the recent controversy over the rewriting of Roald Dahl’s books it is a brave move to mount a musical of one of his most popular works.
From the opening number in which a gaggle of housewives storm through a song that reveals them all to be witches – “We are not women/We are are Hell!” – fears about excessive jiggery wokery are dispelled.
The tale of the child hating witches who hold a convention at the Hotel Magnificent where they plot to turn all children into mice is red in tooth and Dahl. Lindsey Turner’s production is hilarious, scary and occasionally sick.
Stephen Mears’ choreography is inventive and amusing and the songs by scriptwriter Lucy Kirkwood and Dave Molloy lyrically adroit in ways that will amuse adults and children. Teutonic
blonde Grand High Witch (Katherine Kingsley), cigar smoking Norwegian Gran (Sally Ann Triplett) and Hotel Manager Mr Stringer (Daniel Rigby) are all appropriately outrageous. From a rotating cast, Bertie Caplan as orphan hero Luke and Cian Eagle-Service as posh sugar addict.
Bruno have star quality in abundance. The show stopping razzamatazz tap dancing number Bruno Sweet Bruno actually does stop the show.
Radio controlled mice scurry around the stage and under tables before popping up as the boys transformed by big furry ears and tails.
The gamble has paid off in spades.
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