After what seemed like a lifetime, Jack And The Beanstalk has finally arrived in Wolverhampton. Qdos Pantomimes brings the magic of Cloudland, Benidorm's Solana Resort, Coronation Street and Bilston Market together in the most random collection of hilarity and fun.
Our lovestruck couple are West End star - Any Dream Will Do's Ben James-Ellis and Sophie Brooke-Ford. Both are on top of their game and give strong and entertaining performances. Full of energy Ben is the perfect strapping lad to lead the audience on a journey up the beanstalk and into Cloudland. Sophie Brooke-Ford's "To Make You Feel My Love" wouldn't have been out of place on a West End stage.
Coronation Street's Ken Morley is King Crumble and is reunited with on-screen partner from the Street Sherrie Hewson. In Benidorm character as Lady Joyce Temple Savage she is the perfect baddy and receives boos aplenty whenever she's seen. The opportunity to mention Corrie's famous waterbed scene just couldn't be left out!
Sherrie Hewson's glittering costumes were most exquisite and it is clear that every expense has been plunged into the show. Also dressed in glitz and glamour was the spirit of the beans - Fairy Fortune, Niki Evans. Niki who rose to fame on X Factor has been touring recently as Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers and it is great to see her in a much more lighthearted role and with some upbeat songs to riff away - incredible vocals.
The babes were made up of children from the Classic Academy of Dance. The ensemble dancers are Frankie Armitage, Lucian Collier, Oliver Dale, Sian Harriman, Matthew Hartley, Angela Sheppard, Bryony Thompson and Robert Tregoning. The entire team execute perfection with the choreography and are exciting to watch. Alternately they bring Day-Zee the cow to life with a humorous hip-hop twist.
Nigel Ellacott is Jack's mother Dame Trot, and is clearly the experienced Dame. A lifetime in the business (s)he masters the quick change, the towering headdresses and those lame jokes that for some reason are always funny. Dame Trot's Bilston Market song to the tune of Copacabana brought the house down.
Stealing the show however is a little green duck called Orville. Yes, Keith Harris, Orville and Cuddles from all those years ago prove that the old-time entertainment is indeed just as relevant and entertaining today. The children's favourite was clearly Orville who can sing other songs aside from "I Wish I Could Fly" surprisingly well. That isn't to say that Orville's famous song isn't included - it most definitely is and brought the house down, pleasing all but one particular monkey. Cuddles was far from impressed and an appearance in Act 2 ensured that the pantomime had something for all the family - definitely one for the parents!
The set was far from normal and very impressive. There are lavish palaces, a quaint village and an entire house! Andrew Lynford's direction and Steven Harris' choreography come together well to keep the show flowing. The beanstalk and the giant are very impressive and it's nice to see both presented in a much more physical and creative way than the use of 3D - which seems to be the way a lot of pantomimes are moving towards.
Packed with well-known song's of charts, stage and screen this is definitely a show you can sing along to. Wolverhampton never fails at Christmas to put on a fun family show and Jack And The Beanstalk is something that should definitely be part of your festive plans! If you haven't already done so, book those tickets now! Book online at http://grandtheatre.iristickets.co.uk/en/group/4758/jack-the-beanstalk-2012-13/
Visit the pantomime website at http://www.grandtheatrepanto.co.uk and once you've seen it make sure to 'leaf' a review here! http://grandtheatrepanto.co.uk/virtual-beanstalk-2
You can also book for next year's pantomime SLEEPING BEAUTY starring Joe Pasquale here: http://grandtheatre.info/WhatsOn_focus.asp?ShowId=683&sC=page46
Production photos © Gavin Dickson Photography.