Corn Exchange and New Greenham Arts - Jack and the Beanstalk
29th November 2013 to 5th January 2014.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News and the British Theatre Guide.
A script full of beans...
And a spectacular beanstalk says it's panto-time at the Corn Exchange
Jack and the Beanstalk, at The Corn Exchange, until Sunday, January 5
The Corn Exchange's pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk is 'gigantic' fun... Wait till you see the Giant as well as giant beans thrown through the audience and the bean sauce... but you really have to go to enjoy this experience - I'm not going to reveal any more of the superb surprises in store.
Once again, Phil Willmott has written and directed Newbury's special Christmas treat and it's filled with all the traditional elements; beautiful costumes and set, a messy slosh scene, spectacular beanstalk, truly scary giant, dreadful jokes and oodles of audience participation. All great fun and the audience loved it.
Anthony Topham is splendid as the evil Squire Wrong 'Un, who is determined to buy up all the property in Newbury Bottom and make life impossible for the villagers with his pay-day loan business 'robin.com' proving to be very lucrative.
Mathew Grace returns for his fifth year, but this time he's not playing his recurring role of Billy Bumpkin, but a talking vegetable Beansprout, and he's really grown into the part and won the affection of the audience. He comments: "No one seemed surprised to see a talking vegetable" to which the fairy replies: “You haven't been clubbing in Newbury." It was that sort of fun panto.
Also returning for his sixth year is Joseph Wicks who makes his debut as the pantomime dame - Dame Trott - who is the deputy mayoress and principal of the dancing academy. His outrageous costumes become more outlandish at every entrance, especially when his cup cakes started to accidently fall off.
In the title role of Jack "the professional giant-tamer", recently graduated Jack Beatson impressively plays the handsome hero. He had excellent stage presence and a very fine singing voice. He falls in love with Jill, superbly played by Michelle Crook - and don't they make a lovely couple?
Looking after Jack is Candice the Cabbage Fairy, an 'Eastender' with attitude, strongly played by Natalie Harman.
Oh and not to forget the delightful Daisy the cow (Gary Mitchinson and Brad Sarginson) who everyone loved. There was excellent support from Charlotte Whitaker and a troupe of talented young dancers as the villagers, inventively choreographed by Holly Hughes.
There is a stirring first act finale that parodies the finale from Les Misérables, truly excellent. All too soon we were all joining in the song sheet competition and, of course, it all ends happily.
Phil Willmott and the whole cast should be pleased with this fun family panto but perhaps a little tweaking with the sound balance will help us hear the words better in some of the songs. Tickets are selling fast so don't miss out.
There are reviews from WhatsOnStage ("a sense of excitement and adventure that is often lost in pantomime... a fantastic romp of a show" - 4 stars) and the Reading Chronicle ("forget the washed-up soap opera stars and former celebrities, when it comes to family-friendly pantomime fun, Newbury Corn Exchange is the place to go... another golden egg in Newbury").