“Follow Jack, his hapless brother, his mother Dame Trot and climb a beanstalk of gigantic proportions to cloudland in the spectacular family pantomime. Doomed to sell his trusty cow, join Jack as he fights to save the beautiful Princess, outwit the evil giant and win riches beyond his wildest dreams, and the hand of the girl he loves.”
Panto season is well and truly underway, and I was particularly excited by the opportunity to check out the Wycombe Swan’s production of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. It had been years since I’d set foot in this particular theatre, which offers a more intimate setting than many of its rivals.
The performance boasted an all star cast – Simon Webbe from pop band Blue, Britains Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler, Cbeebies Star Chris Jarvis, and the glorious Nigel Ellacott as the colourful Dame Trot (in his 43rd panto!!). Unfortunately I did not get a programme and so am not sure of the name of the wonderful “Spirit of the Bean”, but she certainly deserves a mention for being truly graceful and spectacular, with a majorly powerful singing voice. The rather ghastly “Flesh Creep” also gets a shout out from me for being a grubby, grotty, ghoulish baddie from start to finish… but once again I’m afraid I’m not sure who to give credit to 😦
In my opinion the panto got off to a slow start – I think I was expecting a flashy, loud musical intro rather than the gently simmering first scene. Things soon came to the boil though as we met all the characters -baddies, goodies, sillies and lovelies galore! There were many extremely well thought out sequences, that I imagine must have taken hours of preparation, rehearsal and fine tuning. The Trotters Independent DVD scene was brilliant, and every time the end seemed in sight another titles quip materialised as if by magic. Dame Trot’s bedtime strip scene was also quite something to behold, I’ve never seen so many layers in all my life! She was a true pro, with a dressing and undressing speed that would leave the dancers at The White Horse green with envy.
For some reason, it had completely escaped my attention that one of the stars would be the snuggly, snuffly, shaggy “Sully”, who became Ashleigh’s dancing partner after Pudsey sadly passed away earlier this year. I’m not wild on dancing dogs, but even my icy little heart melted as the duo jived and pirouetted their way around the stage in perfect harmony. As I peered at the faces around me I could tell that children, parents, and grandparents alike were equally spellbound by the canine cutie.
There were a few blunders during the show, for example when darling Moo Moo missed her stage exit and Dame Trot lost her hair (and boob!!) during the 12 days of Christmas, but these all just added to the authenticity of the experience, and reminded me of my childhood years soaking up the atmosphere in village halls. Flesh Creep and Jack Trot managed to have a little chuckle and work round the Moo Moo error in a way that made me love them both just that little bit more. The jokes were hilarious, just on the right side of blue (see what I did there), and the director had enough sense to get Jack Trot to take his top off for a bit which lifted my spirits no end. I enjoyed the “12 days of Christmas” routine, but having been a regular at the Aylesbury panto for several years it felt a little “old hat”, although I did howl when the toilet rolls disappeared into the depths of the live orchestra. I feel that Princess Apricot should have had some slightly more extravagant outfits, and that a little more audience participation would have been nice – nothing I enjoy more than watching an innocent member of the public plucked from the safety of their seat and squirming on stage!
I was pleased to see an imaginative combination of effects utilised throughout the show – these days children are so used to computer games and television that it must be difficult for something as quaint as panto to keep up, but the Wycombe Swan definitely delivered. The inflatable beanstalk and the 3D giant graphics were spot on, and added an extra element of fun (although I wasn’t sure when the right time was to take the glasses off!) I will just share a quick warning – teeny tiny people may be a little alarmed if they are of a nervous disposition, so be prepared to reassure them that some of the scary bits are just make believe! Panto veteran Dame Trot maintained a cheeky rapport with a particular audience member (James) throughout the show and managed to work his name into her strip routine, which was utterly immense. The cast worked perfectly together and I loved their ability to have a chuckle and ad lib when things went slightly pear shaped.
Overall an action packed, laugh a minute show that will appeal to young and old alike and persuade even the biggest of scrooges to get into the Christmas Spirit. The only thing that could have seen me leaving the theatre with a bigger grin would have been a nice selfie with Simon Webbe as I have always been a fan of his, but I’m a very good girl so maybe I can get a tweet instead!
Signing out until 2018, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!