Writer: Michael Harrison and Alan McHugh
Music: James McCullagh
Lyrics: Beth Eden
Director: Ed Curtis
Reviewer: Sue Collier
Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre is as alive as a theatre could be. A vocally strong children’s choir and a wonderful Santa welcome the audience. There is a charming sense of excited expectation as the audience clutched their 3D glasses and activity filled programmes. The stage is colourfully framed by a giant beanstalk.
Jack is played by Yorkshireman Billy Pearce, now in his 17th pantomime season at the Alhambra. If one wonders why he has been invited to return so many times, the answer is simple. It is because he is a brilliant master of the art of pantomime, with the ability to engage his entire audience. Pearce’s humour is gentle and funny without any vulgar adult innuendos. His singing voice was tuneful and his ability to talk to and engage with little children was charming. His jokes relating to Bradford are very well received.
Lisa Riley plays the Magical Spirit of the Beans with a cheerful disposition and energetic performance. She has great audience rapport and her love of dancing provides an additional source of entertainment.
The rôle of the Giant’s servant, Fleshcreep, was played by John Challis. Some attention to the sound quality would improve the effectiveness of Challis’s lines and song lyrics, which are lost beneath the musical accompaniment that caused the diminishment of the strength of his evilness. This isn’t the result of the volume of the audience booing, or anything amiss in Challis’s performance, as the same loss of vocal sound is repeated during Princess Apricot’s solo.
There are several very high-quality aspects of this production. The stage setting is colourful and fresh. The costumes too were colourful and during the highly engaging scene in which Pearce sings If I Could Talk to the Animals, the animal costumes are of the highest calibre and receive great audience approval. The spectacular visual special effects and the 3D presentation cause a riot of sound from an audience that enjoyed being seemingly attacked by spiders, maggots, skulls, bats and even the Giant’s hand, reaching out to grab them. The Giant is charmingly terrifying and possibly the best antihero ever encountered in a pantomime.
The Alhambra has a sizable stage that offers a significant opportunity to entertain, and boydid they take advantage of that opportunity. There is great dancing from a sizable ensemble, a huge helicopter driven by Pearce that, much to the audience’s delight, came out from the stage into the front of the auditorium. As usual, the famous children’s Sunbeams ensemble is a credit to the show and presented charmingly disciplined, high-quality performances.
This Pantomime is of extremely high calibre and is highly recommended.
Runs until 24 January 2016 | Image: Nigel Hillier