It wouldn’t be Christmas without a pantomime.
In the past, I have tended to go to the “bigger” pantomimes – Nottingham Theatre Royal, Mansfield Palace Theatre. The shows with high production values, a high calibre of “stars” and of course, a high ticket price.
Over the past few years I have sometimes been a little disappointed with some of the pantos I’ve seen. Often, the focus falls on the stars and gimmicks rather than the more traditional elements of panto, the very things that probably drew us there in the first place.
This year we decided to give the People’s Theatre Company’s production of “Jack and the Beanstalk” a go, which was performed at the Nottingham Arts Theatre. I chose this particular panto for three reasons:
- It’s a community panto and I actually know quite a few of the people involved both on-stage and off through the various theatre companies I’m involved with. I thought this would be a lovely opportunity to support some of my local theatre performers.
- The People’s Theatre Company has a VERY good reputation for quality pantomimes. It’s been a while since I’ve see one at the Nottingham Arts Theatre but I LOVED it and I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be disappointed this time around.
- At £35 for one adult and two child tickets, this was by far the best value pantomime in town this year and well within my price range (unlike others I could mention where I have to remortgage the house before booking tickets!)
Perhaps another reason to go is that the Nottingham Arts Theatre is where I recently performed as Ado Annie in Oklahoma! (I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that before!) and so it will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m always happy to find an excuse to go back for another visit.
“Jack and the Beanstalk” was at heart a very simple but effective, traditional pantomime with a story that stuck to its roots without going off on too many tangents. It tells the tale of Jack Trott, his mother Dame Trott and brother Simon who are so poor they have to sell the family cow. After Jack is tricked by Fleshcreep, evil minion to the giant Blunderbore, he ends up with a bag of beans instead of a bag of gold. With help from the Vegetable Fairy, the beans become a sky-scraping beanstalk, which Jack has to bravely climb to defeat the giant and rescue the beautiful Princess Jill.
Along the way, the audience meets a cast of colourful characters all of who were universally brilliant. It would take me all night to write about each person individually but what the heck, I’ll do my best.
The hero of our tale, Jack, was played superbly by Patrick McChrystal with brilliant characterisation. His singing voice was outstanding, especially in his big power solo at the end of the first half. I had actual chills. (They’re multiplying – sorry couldn’t resist!)
This panto has not one, but two beautiful princesses, fabulously performed here by Soleil Quarless and Laura Ellis. These were not your typical damsels in distress but were full of spirit and sass. Both ladies had beautiful voices, which was showcased in their lovely duet.
Michael Pearson did a marvellous job as the hilarious Dame Mary Trott. He appeared completely comfortable and confident with the comedic elements of his role and handled the audience brilliantly.
Rob Goll was just the right amount of wicked as Fleshcreep, managing to have a menacing, evil presence without being too scary for the little ones. His victory song in the second half was definitely one of the high points of the show. I have to admit he was probably my favourite character in the whole show, but then I am always partial to a villain! I never could resist a bad boy and that should pretty much tell you everything you need to know about me.
I loved the chemistry between Giant Blunderbore and Mrs Blunderbore, played here by Cliff Hart and Alison Sheppard. Alison had a particularly commanding stage presence and an amazing, soulful voice which was showcased to perfection in her duet.
As entrances go, they don’t get much more entertaining than that of Mike Newbold as King Bumble. From the moment he arrived on stage he grabbed hold of my attention and held it for the rest of the show.
Matt Wesson was fabulously funny as the Vegetable Fairy, popping in with witty oneliners and innuendos that were performed flawlessly. I always looked forward to the moments when he would be on stage as every word, look and gesture was hilarious.
The show certainly wasn’t lacking in confident, comedic performances with Danielle Hall, Cassie Hall and Joseph Smith adding to the hilarity as Simple Simon, Prince Bill and Prince Ben respectively. Danielle certainly won over Miss Mess by inviting her to dance in the aisles during her favourite song.
The ensemble was lively and energetic, perfectly supporting the principal cast with strong singing and choreography and clearly having a great time doing it.
The musical choices in the show were spot-on, with something all ages. The girls were very impressed to hear at least 3 of the favourites and learnt some new songs they’d not heard before. They’ve even badgered me into creating a playlist on my phone with songs from the show.
The set design was bright, colourful and lots of fun. I was particularly impressed with the big beanstalk reveal, a moment I thought worked brilliantly and I know the children found it especially amazing.
Miss Mess’s night was well and truly made when she was invited to go on stage at the end of the show and help with the sing-a-long. She’s not one to miss an opportunity to be onstage – I can’t think where she gets that from!
After the show, the cast members were waiting outside the theatre to meet the audience and pose for photos. I thought this was particularly nice touch and one that made the evening extra-special.
“Jack and the Beanstalk” was a perfect evening of family entertainment – exactly what a panto should be. Both of the girls gave the show glowing reviews and Mini Mess repeatedly asks when she can go back. I think I’ve found a new family tradition and will definitely be booking tickets for the PTC panto next year!
Jack and the Beanstalk is showing at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 17th December and if you’re super quick you might still be able to get tickets. For more details, head to the Nottingham Arts Theatre website.