JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 12th December, 2017
Apart from a couple of changes, the main cast from last year’s rollicking Aladdin returns to Wolverhampton for this generous bean feast of fun, and they seem to work more as a team this time. Lisa Riley is in the good fairy role, as Mother Nature, glamorous yet down-to-earth – in fact, despite the lofty heights of the beanstalk, this is a very down-to-earth show! Ian Adams is Dame Trot in an array of gorgeously over-the-top outfits. Adams is an excellent dame, whose mannerisms never descend into caricature or lampoon. He is supported by Adam C Booth as Simple Simon, an energised funny man who can work the audience seemingly effortlessly. Local star Doreen Tipton is also back to augment the comic capers, bringing local jokes for local people – the Black Country dialect is instantly funny, and Doreen’s deadpan presence is a hoot.
Graham Cole is enjoying himself as the giant’s henchman, Fleshcreep – he even has a go at singing to open the second act. Bless.
But leading man and star of the show is Gareth Gates, looking rugged and sounding smooth. His pop star vocals are as sweet as ever, and he treats us to a rendition of Unchained Melody that gives me shivers. He looks great in panto costume and handles the action well, leaving the broad comedy to the others. His voice blends well with Sarah Vaughan’s Jill, and a traditional routine on a wall with interference from Simple Simon offers one of this funny shows funniest moments. There is a chaotic version of The 12 Days of Christmas, complete with water pistols, and a delightful moment with youngsters brought up from the audience.
Everything you expect to see is here, well presented and pleasingly performed, from the troupe of dancers and the chorus of kids, to the corny jokes and some hilarious bawdy humour. When the giant finally puts in an appearance, it is an impressive piece of large-scale puppetry, and there is the added bonus of a cameo from Julie Paton, singing gorgeously as his golden harp. Paton also choreographs and so is responsible for a lot of the show’s pizzazz.
Production values are high and the fun levels higher. This is a solid and reliable pantomime that delivers on all fronts. Hugely enjoyable and full of good cheer, this production demonstrates why I think pantomime is the best thing about the festive season.