Reviewed by Cate Norris
Panto season is upon us (oh yes it is) and like it or not, nothing signifies the start of the festive season like a good old pantomime. If you’re anything like me, part of the attraction will be an element of ‘loving to loathe’. Of course, one does not like the predictable plots, audience participation, tongue in cheek gags and the sight of real life, grown-ups off the tele running a mock on the stage! Ok so maybe I do, but pantomime is so much more than that. As I looked around at the audience, ranging from 6 to 65 years, I realised I represented every single age group there. I have always gone to the pantomime and I always will. Panto is a part of our culture and is certainly a Christmas tradition in our family. ‘It might be rubbish but at least it’s British’ said Dame Trot played by Ian Adams as if reading my thoughts.
Joining Dame Trot, the show boasts an incredible cast with some famous faces giving it the wow factor. Pop Idol star Gareth Gates plays the part of Jack, Lisa Riley best known from Emmerdale plays Mother Nature and The Bill’s Graham Cole plays Fleshcreep. Ensuring our panto recipe is complete, Doreen Tipton plays Yam Yam Doreen, and Adam C Booth plays Simple Simon.
Ian Adams and Adam C Booth got the audience on board straight away with their crazy antics and Lisa Riley added that Christmas magic. Graham Cole played a fantastic villain and had the audience hissing and booing at the mere sight of him. Gareth Gates sang beautifully, and it was a pleasure to hear him sing Unchained Melody. It was surprising that pop songs were used throughout the show, as I have never come across that in a panto before. It really worked though, and I found myself thinking that that Jack and the Beanstalk soundtrack would be a number one seller!
Stealing the show was dead pan Doreen with her one-liners and colloquialisms. Far too many to mention here but I nearly fell off my chair when she said, ‘you ay pregnant am ya’ as her immediate response to hearing the news that her daughter Jill was to wed Jack. The high energy, enthusiastic performances were contagious and got the whole audience involved – clapping, shouting, booing, hissing and singing. It was a pleasure to see so many families having such a wonderful time.
Some fantastic comedy sequences are guaranteed to have the audience in stitches such as an alternative Twelve Days of Christmas, a play on words with food items and Jack and Jill’s duet on the wall with Simple Simon. I would give anything to hear Doreen say ‘four neck braces’ just one more time.
The creative team had clearly worked really hard and the special effects were amazing. The giant was incredibly impressive, and the set and costumes were just beautiful.
I would definitely recommend this show. With a superb cast, hilarious dialogue and audience participation what more could you want? This is guaranteed festive fun for all the family and they even brought the snow!
Tickets cost from £16 to £45 (booking fees may apply).
Jack and the Beanstalk is at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from 9 December 2017 to 14 January 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.grandtheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01902 429 212.
The Grand Theatre Wolverhampton, Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1DE