WhatsOnStage Logo

Jack and the Beanstalk (Cambridge, Arts Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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.


Tagged in this Story