Bonnie Lythgoe Productions presents Jack and the Beanstalk – a “Giant” 3D Family Musical Spectacular Panto. Directed by Bonnie Lythgoe, this colourful and family friendly production is full of audience participation, hilarious caricatures, and the most satisfying of corny dad jokes and slapstick comedy. The witty script, written by Christopher Wood, also contains a surprisingly titillating and cheeky streak of adult humour to keep the 18+ ‘kids’ engaged and entertained. Cultural references abound including a random guest appearance of dancing “Minions” (from the movie “Despicable Me”) in the second act.
Opening with disco ball laser effects that reach out across the large auditorium, the curtain rises on Christopher Wood’s colourful, fluorescent painted set of orange, green and hot pink. This glow in the dark design extends throughout the many flown set changes and the ensembles costumes.
The second act cleverly incorporates 3D filmed screen technology to portray the Giant and his castle in the sky. Reminiscent of the sideshow “Horror House” rides, we know to expect through our 3D glasses, gross and scary surprises. Objects and creatures such as large spiders seem to hover over the audiences and snot, human skulls and bones are propelled from the Giant’s nose as he sneezes, eliciting delighted squeals from the audience.
Before the show launches into the traditional plot of Jack and the Beanstalk, we are regaled with lengthy, stand-up comedy style, character introductions that include semi-improvised audience participation. These “warm up” games are designed to introduce the conventions of the genre, which encourage the audience to boo, cheer and talk back to the performers throughout the performance. Though most of the audience seemed well versed in this convention and joined with little prompting. Most of these games were hosted by Jimmy Rees, popular children’s entertainer, best known for his role as “Jimmy Giggle”, who joyfully plays Jack’s brother, “Simple Simon Trott”.
The traditional story of Jack and the Beanstalk was altered somewhat to also include King Able Crumble, brilliantly played by well known comedian and actor Peter Rowsthorn (Kath & Kim), whom decrees that anyone who slays the giant that is terrorising the villages will have the hand in marriage of his daughter, Princess Jill Crumble, sweetly and competently performed by Anastasia Feneri. Our hero Jack Trott (Lachlan Dearing) gives a youthful and sincere performance.
Probably the biggest musical theatre name billed in the production is Lucy Durack (Wicked, Legally Blonde), who disappointedly lacked her usual star quality as Fairy Crystal (Spirit of the Beans). She gave what could only be described as a perfunctory performance, full of wooden, empty gestures. Having been a huge fan of her on stage and screen I was mystified and wonder if she was sick or simply ringing it in.
The cast is supported by an ensemble of outstanding adult and child dancers who perform high energy dance routines to the musical numbers, impressing the audience with back flips and other gymnastic moves. Most of the musical numbers are drawn from well known pop songs such as Kylie Minogue’s “I should be so lucky”. Though the dance routines and ensemble scenes seemed somewhat under rehearsed, with the dance ensemble often looking around at each other to check they were in step or in the correct position.
Performance in pantomime requires a comedic sensibility and enthusiastic commitment to melodramatic acting, skills not to be underestimated. A stand out performance is given by Malcome Lord as Jack’s mother, Dame Trott, who flounces through the performance in the most wonderfully, outrageous costumes. At one point wearing a tea kettle as a hat with steam pouring from the spout and a full body can of Hinze beans as Jack presents her with the bag of beans he has sold the family’s cow beloved Daisy.
Stealing the show as “Freddie” Fleshcreep is Luke Joslin, the mischief making “bad guy” and misery of the Giant, who was enthusiastically booed by the audience. By the advent of the second act the audience was so excited by his performance they started to cheer instead of boo when he entered.
Jack and the Beanstalk is a thoroughly entertaining production well worth taking your family to see these school holidays for some light hearted fun.
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK is playing the State Theatre until Sunday 21st July