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Jack and the Beanstalk review at Newbury Corn Exchange – ‘well-crafted, fairytale pantomime’

Cast of Jack and the Beanstalk at Newbury Corn Exchange. Photo: The Other Richard Cast of Jack and the Beanstalk at Newbury Corn Exchange. Photo: The Other Richard

This is Phil Willmott’s 11th year of writing and directing the pantomime at the Newbury Corn Exchange and he has clearly hit upon a winning recipe. Jack and the Beanstalk is a well-crafted pantomime with a solid script.

As Billy Bumpkin, Matthew Grace reprises a well-loved character. Grace builds an easy rapport with the audience and his grin is infectious, though he does struggle to keep a straight face when his character is supposed to be serious.

Billy Bumpkin and Dame Betty Bumpkin (Eamonn Fleming) hype up the audience with some well-judged participation, getting us to pelt giant baked bean balloons at the stage. There are, however, some missed opportunities for comedy: despite a running gag about Daisy the cow entering the Eurovision song cow-petition, she never actually sings.

The musical numbers, deftly choreographed by Daniel Maguire and arranged by Richard Baker, are impressive. Highlights include a number performed in circus costumes that concludes Act I and an Abba medley. The ensemble gives energetic performances and is ably led vocally by Emma Fraser as Fairy Alfalfa and Joshua Coley as Pickle Onion.

The pantomime as a whole has a fairy-tale feel, especially in the quadruple-wedding that concludes the show. The leafy green set and the glittery costumes, though standard panto-fare, complement this aesthetic.

The moral of the story is “It’s OK to be different”. However, the pantomime itself could do with slightly more innovation to lift it from the formulaic.

https://www.thestage.co.uk/pantomime/

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Verdict
Well-crafted, fairytale pantomime that veers towards the formulaic
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