Last year I said Shropshire lad Paul Hendy’s production of Aladdin at Theatre Severn was the best I’d seen but today I was lucky enough to be able to say it again after watching his company Evolution Productions’ version of Jack and the Beanstalk at the same venue.
Dame Trott (played by Brad Fitt and also director of the show) was a familiar face from last year and was as brilliant as ever – in an array of fantastic costumes and boasting layers of bright make-up and padding the Dame entertained the packed theatre with her tongue in cheek one liners, off the cuff remarks and the ridiculing of fellow cast members and of course that unlucky person in the front row – which this year was ‘Stuart’ the unfortunate one also to be picked on by the Dame at last year’s show.
The crowd loved the smiling face and silly jokes and behaviour of Billy Trott and of course the talented West End talent of his brother Jack who became the hero after climbing the beanstalk and saving his princess Tamara (not tomorrow – today! Goodness it’s contagious!)
No pantomime would be complete without the mess and mayhem of custard pies or gunge or in this case ice-cream which was well mixed using Billy’s head, resulting in lots of slipping and sliding by Billy and Dame Trott.
Another county star – King Eric (Eric Smith from Radio Shropshire) – was fantastic with his natural presence on the stage and his enthusiasm and love of the panto portrayed throughout the two-hour performance. After 10 years of practice he is well rehearsed and proves to be a real trooper by continuing with his breakfast show throughout – we need to make sure Evolution Productions don’t steal the county’s much loved Eric on a full-time basis.
Just to ensure the audience hadn’t forgotten how to “boo” and “hiss” baddie Fleshcreep was a regular on stage to keep the characters and the audience on their toes after stealing everyone’s favourite Buttercup the Cow who even managed to shake some groovy moves on stage.
But the stage came to life (literally) when the Giant entered and giant he was. As a mum with two young children (aged three and 20-months-old) I had been given prior warning by a theatregoer from yesterday’s debut show that the giant was in fact “giant” and his voice was loud. They were right. My two boys seemed unfazed but there were a few apprehensive faces around the theatre so it might be worth preparing those who may be a little bit worried that really he is a gentle giant!
Audience participation came in the form of throwing “peas” at the Giant to rid the stage of him which was enjoyed by all.
Whilst the cast, boasting many who have taken a break from the West End to perform in Shrewsbury, were supported by more county talent in the form of 20 youngsters from local dance schools. They have much to be proud of and should be inspired by the work and career of Dawley-born producer Paul Hendy.
The sets, dozens of quality elaborate costumes, special effects and the singing and dancing talents seemed to be plucked straight from the Capital and dropped right on our doorstep in Shropshire. Last year was a record-breaker for Theatre Severn’s box office but watch this space.
I just have one tip of the day to Theatre Severn bosses – make sure you’ve got Evolution Productions booked for 2013 before someone else snaps them up. If they act on my tip then roll on December 2013!
Jack and the Beanstalk runs until January 13. To book call the box office on 01743 281281 or visit www.theatresevern.co.uk