ORIGINALLY scheduled in as the Easter Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk at St Helens Theatre Royal was unable to play to a live audience in the spring and instead was recorded in a slightly adapted version suitable for online streaming. Now it is back on stage again with a few cast changes and, all importantly, the added benefit of an audience to interact with.
St Helens’ favourite comic lead Reece Sibbald has again provided the script for the show as well as playing the role of Jack’s brother Simple Simon, and he really knows what he’s doing on both fronts. A skilled hand at getting the audience on his side and keeping them there, Sibbald works his socks off in this show, really getting the children screaming with delight. As always he has managed to load the script with local references, making maximum mileage out of some of the more comical place names, and in one very clever patter song dedicated to the Theatre Royal he also squeezes in an affectionate tribute to Ken Dodd.
Timothy Lucas is fast becoming another hugely popular name here, and he brings his signature energetic lunacy to his cheeky but lovable Jack. His Princess Jill is another welcome return from Olivia Sloyan, and both of them give some excellent vocal performances in the musical numbers.
He has been in panto for nearly 40 years, but Mark Two is making his first appearance as Dame on the St Helens stage here as Dolly Trott. Mark brings with him his own collection of costumes, and certainly keeps the dressers busy, because we reckon we can count an average of one costume change every 8 minutes at the very least! No wonder Dolly’s catchphrase is “D’ya like me gear?” That isn’t the end to his theatrical arsenal though, because Mark Two Character Productions also provides the troupe of UV puppets that create a linking sequence to cover a scene change. It might be a throwback to variety acts of the 1970s but still remains a hit with the children.
The main cast is completed by Jenna Sian O’Hara and Catherine Cunningham as Fairy Mary and Mrs Fleshcreep, who both give their all to their parts, although every now and then a little too much reverb on their mikes threatens to blur their lines a little.
Add to this a proper Pantomine cow, some great choreography from the 6 strong team from Dance Dynamix and seamless musical accompaniment by Callum Clarke, and it all makes for a tremendously colourful and energetic show. Director and Producers Chantelle Nolan and Jane Joseph, who have recently also taken over ownership of the venue, know how to keep their loyal audiences happy, and have once again pulled a real crowd pleaser out of the hat with this great half-term family treat.
For info and tickets visit www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com
Star rating – 4 stars
Review by Nigel Smith