If you could make a wish to see the best panto ever this year, your wish is granted. Jack and the Beanstalk at Milton Keynes Theatre has magic, giants, slapstick comedy, the best dance group in the world, oh yes and a helicopter! I kid you not. It is like someone asked the kids what they really want to see and made it happen. This panto is AWESOME!
The traditional story of Jack and the Beanstalk is that Jack sold his cow for some magic beans that take him to another world of giants. If you think Jack sold his cow for some beans, then you don’t know the true story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack has a brother called Simon and it was he who sold the cow. But don’t worry, the lovely mother nature is watching over them and so when Jack and Simon’s mother throw the beans out of the window, mother nature does what she does best and they grow into a giant beanstalk. And yes, I mean giant. It is as tall as the Theatre! I like the fact that Jack and the Beanstalk is a bit different from the usual panto offerings so was excited to see this. But honestly this show blew my mind how good it is. This is west-end standard.
Pete Firman plays Simon and he is a natural with the kids. Immediately you warm to him but he is not just the comic relief. He does real magic. I love a bit of magic and he performs the classic glass and bottle trick and he does it so well and so fast that you genuinely cannot see how he is does it. Even as an adult, I was in awe. Pete has a scene where every answer to questions are cuts from well-known songs. This was one of my favourite scenes along with the job song about what they would be if they weren’t in panto. I did get a bit wet from the water gun but it’s so much fun.
Ashley Banjo is founder of dance group Diversity who have been a household name since winning 'Britain's Got Talent' in 2009. Fellow Diversity members Jordan Banjo and Perri Kiely star alongside Ashley with the rest of Diversity. Diversity are just as fresh and exciting as they were in 2009 and are phenomenal to watch. It made the panto feel uber cool. My 24-year-old son grew up watching them and was one of the first to be on his feet for a standing ovation.
The baddie is Fleshcreep played by Daniel Boys. Think of Rocky Horror dressed in steampunk clothing and you get the idea. Daniel was outstanding. I loved his version of Don’t Stop Me Now and he was fun to boo. Jack Land Noble as Dame Trot plays Jack and Simon’s mum. She is mum to all the diversity children and is fabulous at the dame in the show. Gina Murray plays Mother Nature. I am a huge Gina fan and have previously reviewed her in Hairspray. She is so talented and I loved her gentle manner and fabulous voice. Every time she is on stage there is a magic ‘poof’ of sparkles. I found myself wishing that happens in real life…that’s the impact of her performance. Laura Evans plays Princess Jill. I was a little confused that there was a Princess in a town like roundybout but then with panto you suspend your reality. Laura plays Jill as the love interest but its so much more than that. Jill is independent and empowered and I loved that Laura is influencing the young girls in the audience to grow up that way.
All the cast were exceptional. This is a panto that raises the bar. A massive shout out to the stage hands and set designer. We have a growing beanstalk, a market town set with a Pat the Butcher stall and a Ted the Baker stall. And let’s not forget the giant which is so huge he fills the whole stage. And everyone had their mouths open in awe at the helicopter that flies out over the audience.
The whole audience was on its feet at the end and would not stop cheering and clapping. We had a dark theatre this time last year and it has not been forgotten. So, to have panto back and especially with the heightened government restrictions this week (wear your mask at all times inside the theatre building), the audience are more grateful than ever. If you only see one panto this year, this is the one.
Jack and the Beanstalk is playing at Milton Keynes Theatre until 8 Jan 2022