Friday, 17 December 2021

REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Pantomime is at its best when the cast works together with energy as a team to deliver the show and the pace and balance of the production is maintained through the production. Christopher Biggins is a hugely experienced Dame but at seventy-two and with a knee replacement earlier this year he needs to pace himself through the show which he does with elegant ease popping on and off the stage at regular intervals like a watchful mother of the show. He has worked before with Rikki Jay who plays Simon and David O’Mahony who plays Fleshcreep and you sense that these two inject the energy and changes of pace the show needs around him. They make a great threesome driving the show forward. 

Jay bounces around the stage, looking like he is enjoying himself which helps engage the audience and keep the atmosphere lively as he builds a strong rapport with them. He delivers the shopping trolley sketch with great skill and lovely asides to the audience with the help of King Crumble (Derek Elroy). The standard Mastermind sketch and Lip sync challenge routines are delivered as if brand new and generate good laughs as does the other Crossroads standard, “Shirley shaw sells sushi”. The audience reaction reaches fever pitch in the song sheet replacement of “Bobbing up and down” which sees the whole audience joining in and rising and sitting on each word beginning with B to draw the show to a close.

Kiera-Noble as Princess Apricot Crumble and Pearce Barron as Jack Trot make a lovely couple throughout with his big moment coming with “Ain’t no Beanstalk high enough” at end of Act 1. Sadly, he is not able to climb the inflatable Beanstalk. Emily Beth Harrington is also excellent as Spirit of the Beans and shines in a wonderful “Dead Ringer” duet with Fleshcreep and the Ensemble. Indeed, the choreography by Katherine Iles is appealing and varied whether as villagers or henchmen to Fleshcreep and they are well used in the show.

There is a good-looking cow Moo Moo, although no real comedy business around it and a striking Giant Blunderbore for them to fight with an unaccredited voice like Brian Blessed. More could have been made of the Twins FX giant rat which appeared without logic or a song to accompany it.

The sets are wonderful and complex with a good village scene, May market scheme, an underused Cottage interior and a huge final walk down stairs for which there was no chance they would ask Biggins to walk down!

There is a lot of business in the show and Director Ken Alexander has done a very good job weaving it all together into a good narrative, with plenty of song and dance and lots of laughs for a lively and entertaining show.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls, Row S | Price of Ticket: £39
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