Friday, 12 December 2008

Jack & the Beanstalk - Darlington Civic Theatre

Jack & the Beanstalk by Michael Harrison
Director: Steve Arnott

Reviewer: Ian Cain

Pantomimes don’t come much bigger than this ‘giant’ production (pardon the pun!) of Jack and the Beanstalk. Surely, everyone must be familiar with the story of the poor young lad who trades the family cow for a bag of beans and becomes a hero after climbing a beanstalk and defeating a people-eating giant.

Pete Hillier (CBeebies) plays Jack to perfection. His character is a combination of the role of the hero of the piece and the village idiot and it works really well. Pete is a panto natural, skilfully working the audience and scoring a huge hit with the kids. His comedy timing is impeccable and he has a great singing voice, too.

Ian Reddington, known to soap fans as both Vernon from Coronation Street and Tricky Dickie from EastEnders, immerses himself into the role of Fleshcreep brilliantly. His classical training is in evidence as he creates a character that is almost Dickensian. Steve Arnott’s Dame Trot is a masterpiece and he certainly proves that ‘there is nothing like a dame.’ His performance was not only entertaining, but also fascinating, as Steve seems to understand exactly what is required to portray a classic, traditional panto dame. His version of It’s Raining Men with the boys from the ensemble is sensational!
Charlie Cairoli’s kind-hearted King Crumble is the perfect match for Arnott’s dame and the pair steal the show in their scenes together. Cairoli’s circus heritage adds a quality to the show and his capers with Dame Trot are reminiscent of the good old days of the music halls. The stagecraft is wonderful. Emma Cannon is excellent as Fairy Dafodill and she cleverly manages to play the goodie-two-shoes without being sickly sweet.
Sarah Wales makes her professional debut as Princess Apricot and does herself proud, proving to be a competent actress and singer. The principals are supported by a fantastic ensemble of six. The guys, Jamie Cox and Mauro Melim are also given the occasional line of dialogue and the opportunity of a performing in a great musical number with the dame. There is, of course, the obligatory bunch of bonny babes, too and they are provided by The Joanne Banks Dancers.
It isn’t often that a theatre critic is unable to find fault with a production, and I am delighted to admit that this is one of those occasions. Everything about this production is top-notch. The script, by Michael Harrison is extremely well-written, Stillie Dee’s choreography is slick and precise and Steve Arnott’s direction is sharp and tight. I was also impressed to note that the duration of the performance was approximately two hours, meaning that the production held the attention of even the youngest children throughout.

This is one Christmas production that is well worth a visit – I am even planning my second trip! Highly recommended!
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