Writer: Alan McHugh
Director: Bob Tomson
Reviewer: John Roberts
It was always going to be tough to beat Cinderella which opened Qdos’ partnership with the Empire Theatre last year, however, with Jack and the Beanstalk, director Bob Tomson alongside writer Alan McHugh and a hard-working cast pull out all the stops and bring us an almost pitch-perfect pantomime.
Making her pantomime debut as Mother Nature is Strictly Come Dancing’s chief judge Shirley Ballas and what a coup for Liverpool she turns out to be, not only fantastic on her feet, but she also gets stuck in with the acting and the singing too and more than proves a capable match for anyone sharing the stage with her. Following his stint as one half of last year’s Ugly Sisters, local actor Daniel Taylor returns on fine form as the ferocious Fleshcreep, the audience just love to lap up his antics and share their excitement with boos aplenty.
In the titular role Alex James-Hatton showcases himself as a true triple threat and is paired perfectly with Clair Gleave as Princess Apricot, between them, they often sing songs that other pantomimes would leave to a backing track and this just lifts Tomson’s production to a whole new level. Iain Stuart Robertson makes a delightful Dame Trot and in McHugh’s script manages to be just as pivotal to the plot as Jack. But it is the return of John Evans as Simple Simon who brings the theatre into waves of laughter, his routines are slick and his patter spot-on, in fact, his sketches with Robertson and James-Hatton are some of the best seen by this reviewer in many years.
Strong support is given from the ensemble of senior dancers who bring David Wood’s choreography to life as do the Liverpool Empire Babes who on press night were the Blue Team, the level of detail and focus second to none and manage to win the audience’s attention with a brilliant farmyard animal dance sequence.
Yes, there are a few moments where perhaps the jokes cross the line a little and where certain moments don’t quite land in the way they should, but these are minor quibbles in what is otherwise beautifully executed production. Jack and the Beanstalk is strictly striking in looks, strictly slick in presentation and strictly full to the brim with pantomime goodness. This is one giant spectacle and certainly gives other productions in the region some seriously tough competition.
Runs until 6 January 2019 | Image: Contributed