Sunday, 3 January 2021

REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre (Online)

Paul Hendy and Evolution have created bite-size pantos for streaming amongst the eighty offered during December by companies all around the country. They offer a taste of what Pantomime is all about and bring a little bit of festive joy into our homes. However they have shortcut the process by using identical scripts and music for the shows and having seen the Sheffield version, Damian saves Panto and the Canterbury version, Nurse Nellie saves Panto we hoped that the Lichfield Garrick version, Jack and the Beanstalk would offer something different. While the wrap-around theme is varied slightly for Jack and Beanstalk, the basic show is identical save for a few tweaks, I assume from the cast. It is also the most expensive of the three to buy.

The Garrick show is topped and tailed with sponsors messages and a request for donations to support the venue and this at least justifies creating three separate shows from a single production. It is well captured on the stage of the theatre with I think a pre-recorded music track but some good looking Beanstalk sets and gives an outing to the ten-foot Giant Pandemic when they climb the Beanstalk. 

The show provides a good platform for the exciting new ventriloquist Max Fulham (2020 Best Speciality winner at GB Pantomime Awards) with his two puppets Gordon and Moowana. At one point both appear on stage at the same time challenging him to switch voices quickly. It is a confident performance and we can look forward to seeing more of him in future years. The Dame (and the show director) is Sam Rabone as Dame Dolly Trott running the Panto Emporium from a wheelbarrow and trying to protect the Essence of Panto from being stolen. The villain is Professor Fleshcreep played by Tim Hudson with a stereotypical German accent. 
The Fairy Sugarsnap is played by Lorraine Geesey and raps in rhyme supporting the heroine of the story Jackie Trott, Victoria McCabe who gets to perform two good solo numbers in Good Day and Confident. The Evolution Musical Director, James Harrison has included lively versions of Don't Stop Believing and Blues Brothers as well as a spoof Hamilton rap for Fleshcreep. As in the other shows he includes Bring me Sunshine and Laugh me a Laugh which always bring a smile of recognition to the audience.

The show highlights are the cart of shop names used by Jack, Jackie and Dolly to tell a pun-filled routine (which is different from the one used in Sheffield and Canterbury) and the Legendary Ghost Bench on a socially distanced bench. Both are reminders of the essence of Pantomime generating usually strong audience reactions which here are of course missing and imagined by the cast. They also include a short outtake section at the end which adds to the enjoyment.

As a story, Jack and The Beanstalk works better than "Saves Panto" even with the same script and feels like a traditional show. They also encourage us to share videos of the audience interacting with the TV screen on #GarrickPanto to bring some actual interaction. It is an enjoyable show although a bit expensive relative to other online streams and a chance to see Max Fulham who is one to watch in 2021. 

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: £21
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