With an auditorium packed to the rafters with hundreds of excited children, there was always going to be a great atmosphere for Stafford Gatehouse Theatre’s rock and roll production of Jack and the Beanstalk. This was taken to an entirely different level, however by the supremely talented company of actor-musicians who fed off the audience wonderfully and had the whole house in stitches the entire night.
As far as the story went, there was very little diversion from the traditional version we have seen so many times before. This was extremely effective however and the simple narrative allowed the cast to extract the maximum enjoyment from each superbly-sung number and each hilarious gag, including a gag about a gag. The young hero, Jack (Ned Rudkins-Stow) and his bride-to-be Jill (Laura Stillet) are happily planning their wedding, until the Giant’s evil henchman Fleshcreep (Gregory Clarke) tells them they have to give him a bag of gold or he will take Jill to be eaten by the Giant (Craig Anderson). Furthermore, Squire Snuffbox (Joshua Meredith) tells Jack he cannot marry his daughter and his mother, Dame Dolly Dumplings (TJ Holmes) needs to pay her overdue rent or she will be evicted. They are forced to take their last remaining cow to the market and sell her to save the farm. He is approached by a mysterious stranger who buys the cow for 5 “magic beans”, which turn out to be normal beans. It is thanks to the Fairy Aubergine (Isobel Baites) and her magic leek that the beans grow into a never-ending beanstalk and Jack has no alternative to climb the beanstalk and seek the giant’s treasure. His adventures then take him on a (rock and) rollercoaster, including a money-crazy mother, a daring rescue mission to save his beloved, and a not-so-tall giantess called Gemima (Katie Pritchard). This story is every bit as magic as that leek.
There is really so much to love about this production. Firstly, the very talented cast would be worthy of any professional theatre in the land, with genuinely hilarious performances, especially from Dame Dolly and the local village idiot, Billy No-Mates (Robert Wade). Holmes was particularly funny and made what some would call cringeworthy puns a highlight of his performance. The vocals were also on point all night across the entire company, with Isobel Baites as the Aubergine Fairy being especially strong. However, the most impressive aspect of the show was the fact that these actors and singers were also the only source of accompaniment. They blended seamlessly from actor to musician, and the 11 piece band blasted out the rock and roll hits with a fantastic energy and great balance.
The production and set were also extremely clever, and the costumes were a riot of colour which added to the occasion further. Overall this is a wonderful production which will have you and your kids laughing from start to finish, and is a great way to kick off your Christmas celebrations.
Jack and the Beanstalk runs at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre until 10 January.
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