Writer: Alan McHugh
Director: David Janson
Reviewer: Clare White
Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre is full of beans this pantomime season, as this year’s festive offering of Jack and the Beanstalk is bursting with high jinx, magic and superb silliness.
In the fictional West Midlands village of Little Yamton, we meet Jack Trott, who is tricked by evil Baron Fleshcreep into selling his beloved cow Daisy for a bag of seemingly useless beans. His mother, Dame Trott is furious when Jack returns home with his lousy legumes, and throws them out of the window, only to wake in the morning to find a humungous beanstalk has grown.
In the meantime, Jack’s girlfriend Jill is kidnapped by Fleshcreep and taken up the beanstalk to Cloudland, ready to be dished up for Giant Blunderbore’s tea. Jack, along with Dame Trott, Mother Nature, Simple Simon and Doreen Tipton, scale the stalk to rescue Jill and defeat the giant.
Following a formula that worked well for last year’s production of Aladdin, a number of stars make a welcome return to the Grand, namely Emmerdale and Loose Women star Lisa Riley as Mother Nature, who is enthusiasm and sparkle personified, Ian Adams as Dame Trott, who must be one of the best Dames in the business, and the brilliant Adam C Booth as Simple Simon, who frankly steals the show. Responsible for many hilarious tongue twisters, silly slapstick and general goofing around, he is a massive hit with the audience.
The brilliantly deadpan Queen of the Black Country, Doreen Tipton, aka actress Gill Jordan also returns for a second year. The self-proclaimed ‘lazy cow’ was crowned Best Newcomer at the Great British Pantomime awards following her stint last year, and if anything is better used this time around, with many of the best lines – from child tax credits, flatulence and suppositories from MFI (?!), ‘ers good, ay she.
Pop Idol finalist Gareth Gates stars as Jack and makes a good pairing with Sarah Vaughan as Jill. He’s not the most dynamic leading man, but he brings a sweet quality to the role and has lovely, soulful voice. One of the highlights is a hilarious rendition of Everything I Do (I Do It For You) featuring Jack, Jill and Simple Simon, which starts off all sweet and sappy and ends in total chaos.
Actor Graham Cole is suitably evil as panto baddie Fleshcreep, and a special mention must also go to the talented troupe of youngsters from The Classic Academy of Dance, Willenhall, who are particularly adorable dressed up as little lambs.
All the elements you want from a pantomime are present – magic, music, silliness and a dancing cow. There are gags aplenty for both children and adults to enjoy, tried and tested routines (the 12 Days of Christmas scene is laugh-out-loud funny) and the compulsory topical references and local ribbing – Bilston, Wolverhampton City Council, and Donald Trump take the brunt here. The storyline takes a backseat, here the emphasis is placed firmly on the action, funny set pieces, and audience participation.
No expense has been spared by panto producers Qdos. From elaborate sets and sparkling costumes, the creative team has delivered an impressive spectacle. Dame Trott’s outfits are particularly striking, each one more outlandish than the last and the giant, erm, Giant is very clever.
Yes, it’s all a bit daft and nonsensical, but that’s magic of panto. The Grand’s festive offering is a great success – vibrant, energetic and good fun. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Runs until 14 January 2018 | Image: Graeme Braidwood