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Jack and the Beanstalk

Lichfield Garrick

****

LICHFIELD Garrick has built a fine reputation for producing the best panto around when it comes to turning much loved stories into shows suitable for anyone from young children to maiden aunts to enjoy and Jack and the Beanstalk carries on that tradition in glorious style.

The jokes, and there are hundreds of them, will neither give God-fearing grannies the vapours nor leave parents squirming trying to give innocent explanations to their baffled children.

All right some of the jokes have bus passes, and let’s be honest many have free TV licences and have probably had telegrams from the Queen, but they are harmledame trott and Hemlockss, gloriously silly and fun, and after all, even groaning at them is part of the tradition of pantos which we all know a sideline as an old jokes’ home;  even the odd double entendre is funny on both levels so children are never left wondering why people are laughing.

Writer, director and dame Ian Adams,  with his  18th panto and tenth Garrick festive production, has a simple philosophy that “If you can get a laugh from a clean joke, good.”

Ian Adams as Dame Trott and Graham Cole as the Giant's enforcer, Hemlock

He believes a family panto should be just that, traditional and suitable for all the family from tots to grannies. The result this Christmas is a Jack and the Beanstalk, a panto busting with colour and life – and five beanstalks – with no vulgarity nor too risqué a comment in sight.

Daisy the cow is always sold for five beans so Adams had wondered what happened to the other four . . . and now you know. Incidentally, this is a sort of full circle for Adams, Jack and the Beanstalk was the first Garrick panto he produced a decade ago.

Every panto needs a baddy and here it is Hemlock played in a delightfully sinister tongue in cheek style by Graham Cole, best known as Tony Stamp in The Bill who built up an immediate rapport with the audience, albeit in boos,  from the off.

And of course we need a goody, or in this case a whole battalion of them led by Jack, played by Wolverhampton-born Dominic Adam Griffin, who has recently returned from appearing in a musical revue in Shanghai, incidentally.

He provides a suitably dashing romantic lead while brother Simple Simon, played by Jordan Ginger is great fun, with some nice throwaway asides and he shows impeccable comic timing as a foil for Adam’s Dame Trott. He is at the start of his career and on this showing has  a bright future ahead of him.

Romance comes in the shape of Princess Jill, played by Jo-Anne Stevens who was born and bred in Rotterdam only coming to England five years ago – not that you would know from her impeccable accent and clear voice.jack

Her sister is Princess June, played by Lizzie Alderson, turned into a gold harp by the giant.

All alone on stage in the giant’s castle she gives us a plaintive version of the old Eric Carmen classic All by Myself . . . except this turned into the community singalong version with the packed audience gobbling up any opportunity to join in - shades of King Arthur’s I’m All Alone in Spamalot here.

And if you have princesses then you need a king in the shape of Tony Stansfield as King Percival, a rather happy chappy smiling his way through his kingdom despite it being under the rather large thumb of Giant Mactavish played, or rather held up by Angus MacOatup who appears hidden in the legs of what appears to be a rather unstable 12ft ogre.

Going up in the world: Jack played by Dominic Adam Griffin set to climb the beanstalk cheered on by Tony Stansfield as King Percival and the village children

The very British art form of panto demands some slapstick and here it came in the shape of a rendition of the 12 gifts rather than days of Christmas by Adams, the King and Simon with Adams creating a sort of audience aerobics class with everyone compelled to stand up for each singing of five custard pies, then sit down again, ten up, then down, then up . . . you get the idea - eight times. Simon was the unfortunate soul to suffer some 40 custard pies.

We had a spider behind you routine and, in contrast, a rather elegant tap routine on the wings of a plane with clouds swirling down into the audience, very 1930’s MGM Hollywood, as Dame Trott, the King and the villagers took the easy way to the giant’s castle in the clouds, by air. Jack could have saved himself all that climbing . . .

There is plenty of support from an enthusiastic ensemble including Chiarina Woodall as Tess while Morgan Scott and Xandy Champken double up as Daisy the Cow and we all know every panto needs a fairy so Hannah Bennett doubled up as Fairy Buttermilk.

There are also two enthusiastic teams of youngsters red and blue, alternating performances, to provide village children and a hen laying golden eggs, while the band of three under musical director Dave Culling create a big sound from their small number ensuring lively song and dance numbers.

Sound of voices in songs was a bit hit and miss at times but the balance should be sorted as the run progresses.

Adams and his cast keep up a fast pace with plenty of audience participation so that time flies by with youngsters having no time to fidget or get bored. The result is fast paced, traditional, good clean fun until 03-01-16 - Oh yes it is!

Roger Clarke

08-12-15 

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