Tag Archives: Gareth Gates

Beanz Meanz Lolz

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.

Lisa Riley as Mother Nature and Gareth Gates as Jack in Jack And The Beanstalk - Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Lisa Riley as Mother Nature and Gareth Gates as Jack (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)

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There’s the Rub

ALADDIN
Milton Keynes Theatre, Tuesday 10th January, 2012

With a script by Eric Potts, this Aladdin veers from what has become the norm with this production. We don’t get a 3D genie of the lamp – instead we get Camilla Dallerup, mangling her lines and far too many Strictly Come Dancing references – amusing at first, they bog down some scenes and soon become tiresome and unfunny. But we also get Gareth Gates’s Aladdin riding on a magic carpet, so it’s a case of swings and roundabouts.

Gates is very easy on the eye and on the ear. His voice is perfect for the pop songs he is given and he also displays a neat sense of comic timing and tomfoolery. He is ably supported by John Barr as Widow Twankey, and impressionist Paul Burling as Wishee Washee. Burling is excellent in his handling of the audience and when his impersonations are included as throwaway lines of dialogue they are very funny. When he launches into one of his routines and the action grinds to a halt, the impressions are quick fire and hit-and-miss, and you want to shout, Just get on with it, man!

The almost obligatory Twelve Days of Christmas routine almost descended into total anarchy among audience members and went on for far too long, but this is counterbalanced with an absolutely hilarious sequence between Burling and Barr, dressed inexplicably as ballet dancers, performing with a balloon. Very near the knuckle, this scene was one of the funniest I’ve seen in panto this season. A pity then that the laundrette scene was lacklustre and low on slapstick.

Adam Pearce’s Abanazar is in fine voice and played to perfection. Nicola Brazil imbues Princess Jasmine with a spark of fun and her duets with Gates are all very strong. It is since the Disney version that the Princess has to be called Jasmine, rather than the Badroulbadour of tradition. In fact, as a pantomime, Aladdin has always been a bizarre mix of Arabian Nights and Ancient China.

Director Andrew C Wadsworth (also appearing as the Emperor) is wise to keep things traditional and for the most part this production is a delight to watch. Also, the pop songs fit the action apart from a curtain call rendition of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way – a song that is almost ubiquitous in pantomimes across the land this year. I could understand Cinderella’s Ugly Sisters might sing this. I was half-expecting Tiny Tim to give us a chorus or two, but here it just seemed tacked on. A reprise of an earlier number would have done the job. If a genie were to grant me a wish, it would be for a few minor tweaks to make this show the most fun of the season.