Updated: Oct 30, 2021
St Helens Theatre Royal
Until October 31, 2021
Originally filmed and digitally streamed earlier this year over the Easter holidays, St Helens Theatre Royal has revived its popular panto Jack and the Beanstalk for half term, with most of the cast returning to reprise their roles.
The warm-hearted and funny script from Reece Sibbald is a traditional mix of silly gags for the kids with a few slightly more risque ones for the grown ups.
As noted in the previous review, most of the talented cast members have been seen before in Theatre Royal pantos – producers Regal Entertainments have a clear rep company approach to the venue's regular seasonal shows.
Timothy Lucas is clearly a popular choice to lead the show as Jack - combining strong vocals with great physical comedy. His strong Scouse accent is used to great effect to raise laughs.
Writer Reece Sibbald also takes the comedy role of Simple Simon, combining warm charm with cheeky humour.
Mark Two is a friendly and warm Dame Trott, forming a great double act with Sibbald. Two also shows off possibly the most dazzling finale dress I've seen a Dame don in all my years of panto watching. Bravo to him and his wife Dee, who designed all of Dame Trott's fabulous and witty frocks!
Clear-voiced Olivia Sloyan impresses as a fearless Princess Jill. Jenna Sian O’Hara is a down-to-earth northern Fairy Mary while Catherine Cunningham makes a feisty baddie, Mrs Fleshcreep.
The cast shows off strong vocals throughout. Musicals fans will find much to enjoy from director Chantelle Nolan's pacey production, which includes a rousing rendition of Naughty from Matilda, and a catchy version of Crash Bang Wallop from Half a Sixpence. With pop songs including Rick Astley's Together Forever and Queen's Don't Stop Me being impossible to resist singing along to.
Most impressive of all, songs-wise is an original song set to the tune of My Old Bamboo from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – rewritten to pay tribute to the Frank Matcham-designed Theatre Royal, the famous performers who have graced its stage as well as St Helens and the surrounding areas.
This reviewer was highly impressed by what was clearly a labour of love by writer Sibbald while watching April's streamed version. But seeing it performed live elevates it to something really special, given the circumstances of the past 18 months. Live panto is back!
Our little reviewers' clear favourite part is the ultraviolet puppet section Light Fantastic, that had them hysterical with glee - there were even a few tears of laughter.
As ever, the Theatre Royal's panto offers unbeatable value for money, with tickets starting at £12.
Info and tickets here