Sunday, 3 December 2017

"Jack & The Beanstalk"
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
I'm often asked which panto I prefer every year and to tell the truth I always give the same answer. I enjoy them all. Why? because they're all different
The People's Theatre Company pantos will always have a special place in my heart for several reasons. I know most of the cast and I know their work ethic. That work ethic is translated into warmth which seeps from the stage when they are on. i realise that other panto casts also work so hard, but I don't know the cast like I know the PTC lot.
This is the second panto I've seen this year and both have exceeded the quality of the previous year. How they manage it, who knows?
Written and Directed by the award winning Amanda Hall, this version of "Jack & The Beanstalk" is slightly different, and I'm not going to say why, but it's not quite like the ones you may have seen before, even though the core of the story remains intact.
The cast is talent personified and when the casting process took place, the stars must have all been aligned because you would not have been able to pick a more perfect cast.
Taking the lead role as Jack is Patrick McChrystal. he brings the likeability of Jack to life but what I noticed was something that I had only been partly aware of, and that is what a soulful voice he has. I knew he had a strong voice but tonight he showed another vocal style. He is comfortable with the comedy side of the role and is a very competent dancer as well, something he has refuted in the past when I've spoken to him. he just doesn't realise how able he is.
Jack's brother, Simple Simon, is played by the bundle of fun that is Danielle Hall. I have a lot of time for Danielle because of the fun she has on stage, and her lovely personality offstage. Getting the audience to react to her character may have been a grower but by the end of Act One, they were eating out of her hand. Wonderfully energetic performance.
Donning the frocks and heels again is one of the best local theatre Dames you can find in Mike Pearson. Looking not a little unlike David Walliams "I'm a lady" character, he has earned his Dame stripes and knows how to get the crowd well and truly on his side.
Panto is built on over the top characters and the battle between good and evil is what great panto recipes are made from.
Playing the good element of this panto is Matthew Wesson as the Vegetable Fairy with his glowing celery firmly in his grip. Matt ramps the camp up just enough for kids and adults to appreciate the humour in the role and just watching his facial expressions is a joy, especially when Jack sings one of his main numbers in the panto, (which by the way is one of my all time favourite musical theatre songs) and looks to be having a moment of his own. Matt is another actor I have a lot of time for because of the volume of work he's amassed over the last year and because he is a wonderfully fun person to be around off stage.
Now let's get to Fleshcreep, played by Robert Goll. Pitching this nasty character, as with all panto baddies, is something that needs an actor of experience, and that's why Rob gets to play Fleshcreep.
From the first time he explodes onto the stage, he appears to be a proper nasty, but then the comedy and twinkle of the eyes take over and the kids aren't afraid to boo and hiss him, and not just the kids either.
Fleshcreep also gets to feature a song, which surprised me, but the addition of the song works very well. Rob will admit he's no singer but i enjoyed the menacing way he performed his song, and is another fun moment which got the crowd with him.
King Bumble made a spectacular entrance on stage and from then on gave a lovely comic performance. Mike Newbold is one of those actors who you just naturally warm to and I couldn't see anyone else playing Bumble like Mike did.
Princess Jill, played by Soleil Quarless gives this lovely lady a chance to come from the ensemble of past years to feature prominently, and about time to. Loved her vocals and hopefully we'll keep seeing Soleil in main roles going forward.
You get two Princesses for the price of one in this panto and Laura Ellisplays Princess Daisy. The two Princesses perform a gorgeous duet when trapped in Blunderbore's castle, a lovely matching of vocals.
Now if you have two Princesses, you must have the equivalent amount of Princes, so enter Prince's Bill and Ben. Another fantastic pairing in Cassie Hall and Joseph Smith. Both great fun to watch.
Blunderbore, and this is a giant of a role in every way, is played by Cliff Hart. Not the easiest role to play and if you go and see this panto, you'll see exactly why I say this.
Mrs Blunderbore is played by another wonderful actor in Alison Sheppard, who has a lovely voice, highlighted in her main song, which I'm not going to give away, but great thought has gone into these song choices and reflects her status as the giant's wife. Go and see it and it'll all become apparent.
The giant's magic harp is played by Serena Eadon, who also gets to showcase her lovely pure voice.
A lovely golden comedy cameo is given to the hen, played by Marie Rogers.
Not forgetting Pat The Cow, played by Charlie Evans and Jess Gale,
A wonderful ensemble of dancers and singers fleshed the performances out.
Talking of dancing, the whole show is choreographed by Amy Rogers-Gee, who always manages to get the best out of her dancers. Several dance styles featured here and i especially loved the modern dance sections.
This is what keeps PTC above many other local pantos because the fresh and energetic choreography, which every dancer delivered with enthusiasm. And they all looked as if they were enjoying doing what they were doing. They had fun, and that fun spilled out into the audience.
The music was well chosen and performed excellently and covered the decades. A job done perfectly by musical adviser Ray Samuel Mcleod.
The sets looked professional and were built and created by PTC.
The clarity throughout was stunning and well mixed and the lighting was spectacular, both designed by Tom Mowat and worked by a whole bunch of talented individuals, creating a visual and aural masterpiece.
The speed of the show was spot on, no unforeseen bare stages and everyone where they should be, when they should be. I know that in the world of theatre there are so many unsung heroes, and the stage manager is on of these unsung heroes, but was it not for their hard work, the smooth running of the stage would soon be noticed. David PriceNigel Newton and Dan Wolff, you need to be saluted.

You know I think I may have covered just about everyone, even if I didn't name check everyone. From the box office team to the ice cream sellers to the actors and back stage team, PTC have a passionate team who obviously love being involved in local theatre. This shows because everyone you come into contact with once you step inside the theatre are pleased to see you. It's like being welcomed into a big happy family, which is why I always feel so at home here, and why I can waffle into the night with ease when praising this wonderful theatre group.
"Jack & The Beanstalk" is on at the Nottingham Arts Theatre on George Street in Nottingham until Sunday 17 December 2017.

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