Production values along with some
twists to tradition's tail are standard for the Cambridge Arts
Theatre's annual foray into pantomime. This year it's the turn of
Jack and the Beanstalk and writers Michael
Fentiman and Matt Crosby (who also plays Dame) among other
innovations have brought in the Giant's Wife in Fairy guise (Emily
Tierney) to be mistress of ceremonies.
Dame Trott may have two sons, but
one's adopted. Jonny Weldon is Jack, red-haired and a trifle
under-sized as story-book heroes go. Strapping Rolan Bell is Billy,
fleet of foot if not of wits and with a singing voice to match. Sweet
Jill, the daughter of that villainous landlord Squire Nastee, is
Sophie Isaacs, petite in form but remarkably big voiced. Nastee
lives up to his name – and then some – as Stephen Beckett first
invites and then revels in the audience's boos and hisses.
The cow exchanged for that bag of magic
beans is a two- rather than four-legged beastie (Oliver Ellerton),
very cartoon-friendly to look at. The Giant, voiced by Beckett, is a
nightmare figure with only one eye but a lethal-looking metal grab in
place of one hand; he's manipulated by Charlie Taylor]. Also on the
scene and in and out of the auditorium are two hapless henchmen
Bodgit (David Nellist) and Scarper (John Weldon) who get involved
in the messy but thoroughly hilarious ice-cream van sketch – look
out for Bell doing the splits.
Jonathan Williams leads the pit band
in a mixture of genres which complement the dancing sequences; the
young adult ensemble is excellent, whether as ordinary villagers or
the most show-biz of chorus lines. The children are sweet and have
been given some attractive costumes. Though, of course, nothing can
top Crosby's succession of ruched and sequinned outfits, all with
wigs to (sort of) match. It all adds up to very good value for money,
whatever your age.