Fable brought to glorious life

pigs cast

Simon Webbe  as the Big Bad Wolf put the frighteners on Mother Pig , played by and her piglets Taofique Folarin (left) as Bar, Daniel Buckley  as Q and Leanne Jones as Bee

The 3 Little Pigs

Birmingham Town Hall


MUSICAL theatre veterans George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have come up with another winner in The 3 Little Pigs with West End values in a musical for kids.

Most shows aimed at youngsters are either extensions of the franchises of popular children’s TV cartoon series, sometimes staging TV episodes on stage, or adaptations of popular toddler books, safe with recognisable characters and a ready audience.

But when Stiles and Drew were commissioned by Singapore Repertory Company for The Three Little Pigs, they took a well known fairytale/fable and gave it the West End musical treatment – quite literally as that’s where it’s heading next month.

We find the three pigs just about to leave home, Bar the workout king who exercises everything but his brain, Bee, who is an environmentally friendly green pig and Q, whose snout is never far from a book.

Taofique Folarin has just finished playing Banzai in The Lion King in the West End, and was Gary Coleman in Avenue Q, and has a long West End CV, as does Leanne Jones as Bee who made her professional debut as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray in the West End where she won on Olivier award for best actress in a Musical.

Daniel Buckley is another with West End experience and toured as Piggy in Lord of the Flies and Otto in Spring Awakening.

The three, Bar, Bee, Q – oh come on, keep up – are being encouraged to make their own way in the world by their widowed mother played by Australian Alison Jiear who had an Olivier nomination as best actress in a musical for her role as Shawntel in Jerry Springer The Opera.

The three little pigs lost their father when he was converted to supper by the Big Bad Wolf, bad of course being a relative term and he tells us that he is merely misunderstood. Wolf is played by Simon Webbe, best wolfknown as a member of Blue, but he is another with West End experience, playing Curtis Shank alongside Sheila Hancock and Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act The Musical at The London Palladium.

Simon Webbe seems to revel in the role of the Big Bad Wolf, the cool baddy, with a fine voice and a sense of humour

He shows a fine voice hamming up the role of the baddy with more wisecracks than menace while the script keeps to the original children’s story from the early 19th century with the three pigs building their own houses, one of straw, one of sticks and one of bricks. They were all warned by bookworm Q and as sure as eggs is eggs and bacon is . . . perhaps best we won't go down that path . . . anyhow, when the big bad wolf comes calling looking for a pork take away, two out of three building materials fail the huff and puff and blow your house down tests. (BS EN 19653 wolf huff and puff proof building materials).

A simple enough story but it is given the West End treatment with songs from Drewe and Stiles that would not seem out of place in Drury Lane or Shaftsbury Avenue with lively, catchy music in song and dance numbers which are slick and polished thanks to choreographer Ewan Jones. The script is witty, has a few jokes and never gets too wordy while the cast engage the audience whenever they can.

Jason Denvir’s design deserves a mention with fun, bum heavy, pig costumes and a sinister, skin-tight wolf outfit giving character to the cast all in a setting making clever use of three panels. The panels can be moved sideways to reveal mother pig’s house, reversed to double up as hoardings for the three house building sites behind, with plenty of official looking pig and wolf related safety and warning notices, and then swivelled to reveal the three pig houses.

The blowing down of the houses of straw and sticks was done simply but most effectively as was the sad, or otherwise, demise of the wolf, with a nice touch of regret from the pigs who try to save hime from his unfortunate end.

The wolf though, amid a strange mix of pantomime boos and genuine cheers, came back to life for curtain calls and finale.

The result is a cracking musical for children. It has a potential problem in that the story is for the younger end of the audience along with the likes of Goldilocks and The Three Bears, another in this Drewe and Stiles series of trios, as is The Three Billy Goats Gruff, while the style and music is perhaps at the older end of the fairy tale age range in terms of sophistication and what younger audience members  are used to - age advice is three and upwards

But that hardly matters. The story is so clearly and well told with no patronising of younger audience members and the pace so good and music so lively that toddlers and even mums and dads were taking an interest and enjoying it. This is a West End musical for kids, a real quality production, with a simple, easy to relate storyline, jokes for young and old, a strong cast, clever set, with good songs and catchy music . . . and you can’t ask for much more than that.

I am a great believer that children’s theatre is the recruiting office for future theatregoers and shows like this will have youngsters wanting to come back for more. To Sunday, 2 August

Roger Clarke


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