The dancing is one of the strongest elements of this handsomely designed production of Jack and the Beanstalk. No surprise given that Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas plays Mother Nature – the choreography is outstanding.
The singing is quite something too, especially Alex James-Hatton’s swashbuckling Jack and Clare Gleave’s sadly under-used princess Apricot. Ballas also displays impressive vocals, and has real command of the stage – she’s one of the best fairies to grace the Liverpool Empire in many a year.
John Evans is fast becoming an Empire favourite, and his Simple Simon captivates the younger members of the audience. It’s a generous performance, which goes some way to compensate for the occasionally over-egged adult gags in Alan McHugh’s script.
The first act takes its time to get to going, and contains some pretty dubious jokes, but once the magic beans start growing the pace really picks up. After the interval the show hurtles along thanks to an extended 3D sequence.
An over-long Twelve Days of Christmas routine threatens to put on the brakes, but the show gathers momentum again as it heads to its visually stunning climax.