If you want to see the funniest panto, your wish is granted as Jack and the Beanstalk is playing at Derngate Theatre, Northampton. It is without doubt the funniest panto for miles around.
Fairy Sugarsnap helps us understand the issues facing the town where both Jack, his mum, Dame Trot and Jack’s friends Jess and Billy live. Luke Backinager is the baddie who actually has a backstory. We hear how he became angry and bitter when he didn’t make it into a boyband. He is now making Dame Trot sell her cow so she can repay him money she owes and also that he promises not to destroy the town with his weather machine. Of course, we all know that Jack does sell the cow (named Cowpat) for some beans. What you don’t know is that Jack sells it to Luke dressed up as an attractive French maid. How Jack doesn’t realise its Luke with a wig on is a surprise to us all.
This amazing panto with an exceptionally talented cast, has the feel of a traditional pantomime but also has a wickedly funny script using not only slapstick but sarcasm too. The rate of jokes a minute is phenomenal. I honestly did not stop laughing the whole show. Just in case you ask for more, there is also a real dog and that’s a great excuse for 26 very funny dog jokes and a real pantomime cow. There are water guns;I was not expecting that, but it so much fun. And the giant is a giant!
Keala Settle plays Fairy Sugarsnap and Keala has such a beautiful voice. Her version of Over The Rainbow was stunning. She can also engage with the audience and got them cheering her every time she enters. I know we are supposed to hate the baddie, but I loved Richard David-Caine as Luke. Firstly, he is dressed like he should be in We Will Rock You, a rather cool outfit for a panto baddie and has a non-specific accent that most baddies should have. Secondly, he is extremely funny. I was laughing so much from his dead-pan delivery that I sometimes forgot to boo. He absolutely nailed it. When he leaves his weather machine unattended, he says ‘It’s a pantomime. Why wouldn’t I leave my machine unattended?’ Just brilliant.
Dame Trot played by the brilliant Bob Golding who is looking for love so uses a drone to film the audience (a chance for us to wave at ourselves) and for Dame Trot to find love. Of course, some unsuspecting member of the audience will now be picked on for the rest of the show. My favourite Dame Trot moment was when she accidentally locks herself into the weather machine. This will be a lot of people’s favourite moment as you know she is gonna get wet and I couldn’t help laughing when her wig slipped down. This is exactly why we come to theatre. Dame Trot’s outfits are great but my favourite was the Elton John and piano outfit. So many Elton John song puns. I would say sorry, but that seems to be the hardest word.
Jack is played by Alex Lodge who has hair that is so amazing, it should have its own insta. Alex reminds me of Zac Efron, as he is very handsome, can sing and is a great actor. Ben Thornton plays Billy and he alongside Jack gets the whole audience interacting. Pantos should be audience participation so this is a fantastic opportunity for all ages to shout out. Jess played by Cara Dudgeon is the third friend in the trio and the perfect female lead. A triple threat for sure and wonderfully suited to panto.
All the cast were exceptional, including the ensemble and Uncle Gary the musical director. The boy band scene is just perfection. Luke has the boyband rule book which tells you all the rules about being in a boyband such as sitting on stools and standing at the key change. Its so true! The end of act one medley offers us Eminem’s Lose Yourself; ELO’s Mr Blue Sky and a song from Les Mis. What a fantastic way to end an act. This show is amazing.
If you only see one pantomime this season, I highly recommend Jack and the Beanstalk; I recommend it as high as a giant beanstalk! Okay I will leave the jokes to the professionals.
Jack and The Beanstalk is playing at Derngate Theatre, Northampton until 2 Jan 2023
Photos: Pamela Raith Photography