Christmas has come early for panto lovers in St Helens this year as the Theatre Royal’s October offering ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ provides the perfect half-term treat for all the family.
From the instant the dastardly giant’s voice rumbles through the auditorium – ‘Fee, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of St Helens peasant scum!’ – it’s abundantly clear that this is a production packed with plenty of laughs, witty one-liners, and more mesmerising musical numbers than you can shake a beanstalk at!
Regal Entertainments’ absorbing twist on this beloved rags-to-riches tale proved a huge hit earlier this year when the production was streamed online during the third national lockdown.
Six months on, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ restores the magic of live theatre to St Helens, featuring a superb cast of accomplished Theatre Royal regulars.
The show sees Jack – played with swathes of swashbuckling Scouse charisma by Timothy Lucas – embark on a heroic quest to save his kingdom and win the heart of the enchanting Princess Jill (Olivia Sloyan).
Along the way, he enlists the help of the benevolent Fairy Mary (Jenna Sian O’Hara), whose broad Lancashire accent injects a bewitching dose of northern warmth into the production.
Of course, every good panto needs a villain, and Catherine Cunningham elicits her fair share of boos from the audience with her vengeful portrayal of the conniving Mrs Fleshcreep.
Whilst the entire cast is brilliant, the standout performers are undoubtedly Mark Two and Reece Sibbald who work in perfect tandem as comedy duo Dame Dolly Trott (Two) and Simple Simon (Sibbald).
In addition to starring in the show, Sibbald is also responsible for writing the script, and he delivers a whole host of his expertly crafted, gut-busting gags with impeccable comic timing.
Two, meanwhile, is a seasoned pantomime dame and – impressively – his extravagant, scene-stealing costumes are exclusively designed and made by himself and his wife Dee.
Over the course of the production, the audience is treated to an array of dazzling musical numbers, including hits such as ‘Footloose’, ‘It’s not unusual’ and ‘Disco Inferno’, peppered with enough special effects and dynamic scene changes to titillate all the senses.
This classic fable is brought bang up to date with plenty of amusing references to Zoom calls, Brexit, and travel guidelines – it transpires that the evil giant’s Cloud Land is, in fact, on the red list!
There are also enough tongue-in-cheek innuendos to guarantee that the adults are kept entertained just as much as the children.
A special mention must go to the six senior dancers who are tasked with filling the stage in the absence of the usual junior dance troupe. They do so brilliantly, executing Nazene Langfield’s engaging choreography flawlessly.
With a run time of just over two hours (including a 20-minute interval), the show might perhaps prove a little bit long for some of the younger members of the audience, and there were a couple of moments in the second act which felt slightly laboured.
That being said, this is a theatrical feast that should not be missed and, with tickets starting from just £13, it’s the perfect opportunity for some affordable half-term fun.
Star rating (Out of Five): ⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ runs at the St Helens Theatre Royal until Sunday October 31.To find out more information about the show and to purchase tickets, click here.