Jack and the Beanstalk (St Albans – panto)
Importing television stars into theatres shows may be good box-office, but it's not necessarily a recipe for pantomime success.
Jack and the Beanstalk in Paul Hendy's version of one of the "big four" pantomime stories has a very modern fairy, Sugarsnap (Rebecca Keatley), in full organic vegetable mode. We're in the 18th century, according to Bob Golding's spectacle-sporting Dame Trott; it looked more fin du siècle to me.
Golding projects a warm personality which has the audience on his side from his first entrance. Andrew Bryant plays daredevil Jack with Wink Taylor's Billy as contrast. The girl Jack wants to win is King Eric (Ian Kirby)'s daughter, the Princess (Jemma Carlisle).
The village scenes are pretty, with some neat dancing by the junior chorus. The Alban Arena stage has the disadvantages of so many multi-purpose venues – there's more width than depth and no fly-tower. So Air Artists' beanstalk was a somewhat stunted affair.
Giant Blunderbore doesn't apear until the second act, so villainy rests with his henchman Fleshcreep. Steve McFadden stalks onto the stage to the EastEnders theme but never really manages to merge Phil Mitchell into Fleshcreep. Golding, on the other hand, shows how to create a slightly offbeat Dame.
Matt Daines directs with designs by Helga Wood and choreography by Paul Tracy. David Randall, Paul Merser and Lewis Turner provide the music from a balcony niche stage right, which at times makes for an odd balance of sound.
Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the Alban Arena, St Albans until 4 January.