Leslie Judd reviews Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk
by Chris Shinn and Julie Petrucci
performed by Waterbeach Theatre Company
directed by Holly Collas

This was a bit of an adventure for me, not only have I not been to Waterbeach since 1983, only gaily passing by on the A10 or on the train, but I have never seen Jack and the Beanstalk, so I was interested to see how this story played out in Pantomime, I was not to be disappointed in the telling of this tale and the presentation.

Julie Petrucci made me welcome and I found myself at the end of a row of ladies who were equally welcoming, they did however warn me that as I was the only man in the row I was likely to be picked on by the Dame, thankfully I was in the second row and not the front row. Fortunately Bob in front of me was a good sport and took it all in good fun.

This was a LazyBee script with a clever re-working of the story setting this version in the village of Candlerise (for those of us who remember Larkrise to Candleford on TV). I found this to be a fun and lively script, interpreted and well directed by Holly Collas who had brought out the best in the cast using all to good effect. Her direction never lacked pace and she used visual and verbal gags to good effect. The show started with a prologue by Fairy Starshine (Emma Foltynie), who was a little nervous to start with, I later found out that this was her first ever stage performance, however as the show progressed so did her confidence and she appeared to relish her costume, her role and her glittery make-up, Having been introduced to the Village of Candlerise we came across the various characters who were going to take us through the tale of Jack, his adventures and the misfortunes of Dame Daphne Trott and Annie.

Jack was very competently played by Kattreya Smith, with a good singing voice, great stage presence and ability and a smile for the audience all the time, she came across as an experienced pantomime hero. Jack was assisted in his journey by girlfriend Annie, Jess Hamill, who also appeared comfortable in her role acting and singing with ease. This pair complemented each other in their singing and acting and were a convincing couple. They were competing however with another character who is always the 'star' of any Panto - The Dame. Chris Shinn played Dame Daphne Trott with style and exuberance, very comfortable in his role, relishing his various costumes and wigs and holding the audience throughout his performance, it was good to see traditional Dame make-up. Dame Trott's family wouldn't have been complete without Buttercup the dancing cow, a nice little performance from Steve Harmer and Michael Husband who managed to wring as many laughs as possible from their role.

There were several comedy roles in this pantomime aside from the Dame. There was the Police Duo, Constable Dunstable, Simon Colston and TCPO, Eliza Buchanan, both entertaining performances, you need a bit of guts to walk around with a blue light on your head. Neither of whom worried about making fools of themselves at their own and each other's expense, having the audience laughing at their antics, particularly when TCPO was repeating the Constable, good timing. Grabbit and Leggit - John Meredith and James Windle, the bungling thieves, burglars and ne'er do wells, they partnered each other well and gave the audience many laughs and made the most of their many routines together, their facial expressions and movements, I particularly enjoyed their routine at the Hollow Tree and as Ghosts trying to scare Dame Daphne. They were encouraged in the mis-deeds by a thoroughly unlikeable rogue, Lawrence Loda-Lolley superciliously played by Gareth Atkinson, a villain we came to enjoy booing, he appeared to love his role bringing much comedy to his looks and actions which were a joy to watch.

Of course, much praise must go to the Henny, so enthusiastically portrayed by Emma Bolton- Luckie, this became in her hands a gem of a role and even on a cold night this must have been a costume to struggle in, her accent was so right for this role. Here I must make a special mention of her three chicks (I presume Johnny, Thomas and Erben) who were a great backing group and support to her, for three lads I thought their singing was great and great yellow costumes.

Penny Clay as the Mayor and Tina Seeley as Mrs Big comfortably held their own in their roles, suitably pompous and refreshingly helpful in their respective roles. Well done to the Giant, Roland Beevor for mastering the Plasterers Stilts, it did help to make him look giant and to Vicki Hingley for her cameo as the Old Lady.

This was a fun and colourful production, the dance routines, especially the full company numbers were energetic, well-choreographed and well executed by the chorus and all in a company that stretched right across the age range. Emma should be pleased with how tight the choreography was, and Holly with how happy they looked all the time. Musical Director Joe Griffiths had worked well with the volume and sound and together with Simon Wombwell, Guitar and Phil Law, Percussion there was a lovely musical tone to the whole production. The simple but effective set with the one main backcloth for most scenes was most effective, Dame Trott's House and The Hollow Tree flat were effective additions. The Giant's Kitchen with Giant Chair and the cage that imprisoned Annie was a most effective set. Off course the star was the Beanstalk, I was interested to see how this would grow, and very effectively it did too with the lighting effect on that being superb, although it appeared to wilt a little, but hey ho just a tighter knot! Make-up and costumes were good, nothing to complain about there, I didn't notice any problems with sound and the lighting was well designed. An entertaining programme with puzzles etc, the only thing I would have liked was to have known which song went with which scene, which were, I thought when I watched the show appropriately chosen

All in all, a very successful production and all the cast and company, the crew, back stage and front of house should have been very pleased with this show.

Thank you for inviting me to review this show, I now know the Panto story of this version of Jack and the Beanstalk

Leslie Judd

Waterbeach Theatre Company
All performances at
Waterbeach School
Cambridge CB25 9JU

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