Join our audience member and pantomime enthusiast, Kathryn Peters as she reviews Jack and the Beanstalk...
Yes folks, it’s that time of year again. It’s getting close to Christmas which means…..it’s panto time! This year I had the pleasure of watching The Millfield Theatre’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk, which I must say lived up to ‘giant’ expectations, offering a technicolour show, jam packed with comedy and fun.
I have to start off by congratulating the writer and director of the show, Marc Day, for not only producing it, but also treading the boards at the very last minute as Dame Dottie Trott! It is a director’s worst nightmare having a cast member fall ill or such like, with no understudy to step in, but Marc Day embraced this role with shear sass and pizazz, with an equally sensational wardrobe to match!
Due to Marc’s clever casting, this show was awash with talent. Firstly, the aptly named Fleshcreep was played by Alex Scott Fairley, who lived up to his persona in a delightfully sinister manner that incurred boos and hisses by the bucket load from the all too eager audience. It is no wonder that he has been asked back time and time again to do panto at Millfield, as his talent shines through in the various characters (and accents!) he portrays on stage. Jack Trott, played by Alex James Ellison, gave a very charming performance and an equally endearing rendition of Jack Johnsons’ ‘Better Together’, which he played on the guitar. This added a really lovely touch to his first duet with Jill, giving the show its fairy-tale feel as we followed the hero and heroine on their adventure. The role of Simple Simon, Jack’s brother, who encouraged the audience to greet him every time he came on stage was played by the hugely charismatic Christopher Burr. He played this role with ease, bringing great energy and a contagious smile to every scene.
Both Fairy Deluxe and Jill, played by Katriona Perrett and Lydia Rose Bertie respectively, both had fabulous singing voices which really shone through in ‘Holding out for a Hero’, leaving an excited buzz of chatter as the audience left the auditorium for the interval. You can’t have Jack and the Beanstalk without Buttercup the cow, and in this show she did not disappoint with her usual loveable characteristics, and a bold tap routine to boot! I must also acknowledge the giant…..yes you read correctly, an actual giant! Well not a real giant but a huge, moveable giant figurine reaching all the way up to the top of the stage. This huge apparatus was controlled by Jamie Lee-Morgan who did a brilliant job weaving it around the set and adding a bit of magic and make-believe to the production.
The set, although simple, suited the style and period of the show and cleverly enhanced the Giant’s lair towards the end of the show, putting everything into perspective! I was equally impressed with the costumes, cleverly fitting in with the original storyline, but brilliantly bright and showy when needed! Dustin Conrad’s excellent musical accompaniment gave the show a real buzz and sense of energy, using a clever mix of old and modern songs intertwined with the storyline. A particular favourite of mine was ‘A rumour in Merryville’, originally ‘ A rumour in St Petersburg’ taken from the cartoon adaptation of Anastasia.
The choreography was very cleverly interwoven with the songs throughout the show, giving it the feel of a full-on musical. The dancers had clearly worked hard during rehearsals, performing the ambitious choreography with energy. All I can say is I wish the stage had been bigger! On an ending note, The Millfield Theatre production team should be very proud of their show this year, as it has set the festive period off to a fantastic start and I am sure that each audience will enjoy this production as much as I did!