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Review: Jack & The Beanstalk

Mirror mirror on the wall, is this the campest panto of them all? Check out my review of this year's pantomime at Cambridge Arts Theatre


Cambridge Arts Theatre, Jack and the beanstalk

I’m just back from Cambridge Arts Theatre and onto my computer to give you my hot-off-the-panto press verdict on Jack and The Beanstalk starring Amarillo singer Toni Christie, Liza Goddard and Corrie’s baddy Stephen Beckett. To put it succinctly – because I’m knackered! – I think you’ll love it. OK, lights out! What do you mean – he’s behind you?!

Cambridge Arts Theatre, Jack and the beanstalk

Most pantos cover all the predicable bases of including a couple of strong singers, a couple of strong actors, a cross-dresser, a token local performer, a troop of locally trained children and the usual adult jokes playing it close to the wire and (hopefully) wafting innocently over the kids head! This year’s line up at the Arts Theatre won’t disappoint.

Cambridge Arts Theatre, Jack and the beanstalk

The headliners: King Amarillo (three guesses who plays him?), Liza Goddard (Bergerac) as the fluffy fairy godmother; Stephen Beckett (Coronation Street) as Fleshcreep and Cambridge’s favourite panto dame Matt Crosby.  The cast all complement eachother really well and there wasn’t one person that outshone the others. Everyone has a good set of lungs on them, the singing and dancing is strong and very slick especially from the younger members of the cast.  There aren’t as many cheesy well-known numbers as you’d normally hear in a panto, and a couple of songs dragged somewhat but the execution was spot on. The glamorous Holly Easterbrook plays the female trouser role Jack; if you came to Dick Whittington last year you’d have seen her in that pantomime too.  Stephen Beckett plays the baddie Fleshcreep and nailed it – encouraging just the right amount of booing and hissing when he entered stage left.

Cambridge Arts Theatre, Jack and the beanstalk

One thing to applaud in this panto is that both halves were funny. Often you get a brilliant opening act and then a sluggish finale or vice versa, but this one rollicked along all the way through and none of the kids in the audience seemed to find it flagging. The giant in Act 2 created enough scare-factor for the kids to enjoy. There are the usual adult jokes – most of them teetering close to the edge – but none falling over.

Cambridge Arts Theatre, Jack and the beanstalk

The two funniest bits of the evening for me were, firstly, a very clever set piece of comedy from one of the ‘Milk Parlour Scenes’ with the Dame and Fleshcreep carrying out a brilliantly choreographed and razor sharp set – it’s a miracle that neither were carried off on a stretcher and it must have taken hours and hours to get that one right. The other highlight was in true traditional  panto style they brought four children on stage to join in Old Macdonald had a Farm.  It was well arranged and very funny but not in a way to make the children look silly, orchestrated by the Dame who has panto pro written through him like a stick of rock and the whole show rollicks along largely because of his pandemonium alongside his numerous impressive costume changes.

Cambridge Arts Theatre, Jack and the beanstalk

So all in all, a great success – fun for the kids, gratifyingly smutty for the adults, and also at two and a half hours from beginning to end, not overlong for smaller kids on an evening. A big Muddy panto pleaser.

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