The Worst Witch, Birmingham Hippodrome - review with pictures
As the witching hour approached, hundreds of little witches and wizards hopped on their brooms and flew over to Birmingham Hippodrome for a magical evening with The Worst Witch.
Based on Jill Murphy's classic books adapted by Emma Reeves, the mystical musical took the loveable characters we know and love, and saw them put on their own play within a play to dazzle theatre fans both young and old.
Before the curtains went up, the cast of the show mingled with the crowd - much to the delight of one little girl sat in front of me who was screaming and waving for Mrs Hardbroom to come and tell her off.
As the lights dimmed, the cast took to their marks on the stage, apart from poor Mildred Hubble, who instead clambered over the giggling audience as she apologised for her late arrival.
The musical saw the young witches of Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches put on their own stage show based on the events of their first year at school. They told the tale of bumbling sorceress Mildred, who happened upon the academy when she climbed onto the wrong school bus.
There, she meets best friends Maud Spellbody and Enid Nightshade, as well as arch nemesis Ethel Hallow, a high-born, snobbish and vindictive witch determined to cause misery wherever she goes.
They learn all their magical powers from the eccentric Miss Bat, sporty Miss Drill, imposing and powerful Miss Hardbroom, and loveable headteacher Miss Cackle who hides a dark secret - her evil twin, Agatha, intent on stealing the school and taking over the world.
While Mildred struggles to find her place at the school, a much darker evil approaches from the forbidden woods - Can Mildred realise the true extent of her magical powers and save the day once and for all? Or will Ethel have her wish and have Mildred expelled from the academy?
The Worst Witch is a hilarious and at-times poignant romp filled with witchcraft and wizardry at every turn. Using slight-of-hand illusions and some stage-trickery, the cast made uniforms transform, cats suddenly appear, props fly across the stage and brooms soar through the sky, much to the amazement of the crowd below.
But the real magic came from the talented cast at the centre of the show. Danielle Bird did an excellent job of bringing Mildred to life through her clumsy movements, messy hair and endearing personality. As she blundered through the steps of her opening number and tripped over her brand new scooter, I found myself cheering loudly as she slowly started to get to grips with magic and find her coven - we all love an underdog, after all.
Rebecca Killick as Maud and Emma Lau as Drusilla similarly shone as part of the ensemble, while Consuella Rolle as the rebellious Enid Nightshade commanded the stage every time she set foot on it, delighting the room not only with her pranks and sassy one-liners, but also with her stunning singing voice that was pitch-perfect at all times.
We're meant to malign a baddie when they enter the stage, but I couldn't hide my smile or giggles every time Ethel strutted into a scene. Rosie Abraham stunningly captivated the crowd with her flamboyant movements and hilarious facial expressions that embodied the obnoxious student.
What Ethel lacked as an imposing nemesis, Rachel Heaton possessed effortlessly as the stern and strong Miss Hardbroom. With her hair slicked back into a tight bun and starch black dress, the wicked witch demanded the attention of every audience member as if we were also in her potions class.
But it was Polly Lister as both Miss Cackle and Agatha that truly stole the show. The talented actress could easily switch between the caring and affable Miss Cackle, to the evil and conniving Agatha at a moments notice - sometimes even in the same scene with the clever use of a half-and-half costume.
She had the entire room booing and hissing as Agatha hunted Mildred to stop her foiling her plans, while we all clapped as Miss Cackle reigned supreme and brought greatness to the academy once more.
Though it wasn't just these witches that brought the emotion to the stage. The band - made up of Molly-Grace Cutler as Miss Bat, Meg Forgan as Fenella and Megan Leigh Mason as Miss Drill - both acted in the scenes and grabbed instruments to provide the soundtrack to the musical in expert form.
Fun and fantasical from start to finish - The Worst Witch will cast a spell that will have you grabbing your pointed hat and flying over to Birmingham Hippodrome with your familiar.
Runs until May 26.