Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Top quality Christmas fun

Jack and the Beanstalk

The Riverfront in association with Hiss and Boo , Riverfront, Newport , December 16, 2007
Jack and the Beanstalk by The Riverfront in association with Hiss and Boo The most traditional feature of this totally enchanting and engaging Panto was the tremendous fun enjoyed by the packed audience of very young and some very old children who did so much yelling of ‘behind yous’ ‘Oh no he isn’ts’, booing, cheering and singing-along that they made almost as big a contribution to the success of the show as did the fine hard-working cast on the stage.

The show starts with a bang!, coloured lights fill the auditorium, the title of the show dances within the rural proscenium arch and the dashing duo in the orchestra pit led by Julian Tucker on keyboard and many other things, with the equally versatile Adam Davies on percussion lead us into a toe-tapping opening. There’s a sudden halt in the music, a sharp crack and a puff of smoke and in the best pantomime tradition the villain enters from stage left swathed in green light. He snarls at the audience, they boo back, he taunts them again, they boo even louder and so the repartee continues.

Brian Hibbard’s baddie, Nasty Chalice of the Palace, is a masterful performance. He’s dastardly enough to make us know that he means business but this well experienced show-man is not going to send any little one into tears and spoil the show for them. He’s well under the giants thumb and he’s going to need all the support he can get later on in the show. Back to stage right, another fire cracker, this time a puff of white smoke and Fairy Rainbow appears swathed in bright golden light. Jane Tucker looks a delight, she very quickly quietens the now near rebelling audience and in gently delivered rhyming couplets she outlines the main ins and outs of the story. She waves her magic wand and we’re in the Town Square in Pantoland.

We meet the very pretty Princess Marigold, Katy Day, with her clear and charming voice sings the opening song and dances with the villagers. This is very much a Panto for Newport and some very talented children from the town form the chorus for the show. They sing and dance and set the mode of the scenes with great skill and presence.

There are some great comedy routines with Jack, Mark James whose naughty little boy character so endears him to all the naughty little boys in the audience and Lee Mengo as Dame Trott. Mengo is Cardiff based actor who brings none of the baggage that some big name comics bring to their Pantomime performances, he has great fun with the role, scuttling along on his platform heels, he develops quick, witty, (well perhaps witty is too strong a word), with both Daisy the poor long suffering cow and portly Old King Cole of Newport, a much bewildered and cuddly Ieuan Rhys. He has the air of a, may be not so wise, caring father. This is just as well because, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, all does end very happily. Jack and Princess Marigold do fall in love and marry but I think her dad will have to keep his eye on that very naughty boy, but then anything is possible in Pantoland!

For some top quality Christmas fun pop along to the Riverfront – you won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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