Bonnie Lythgoe’s mid-year pantos are becoming something of a school holiday tradition. For six years, the former dancer-turned-director and producer has brought joyous, family-friendly fun to Australian theatres. This year’s instalment, Jack & the Beanstalk, once again delivered a high quality show that was fun and broad in its appeal.

Pantomimes are a great little taster for children to be introduced to the theatre. While it is a British institution, Lythgoe’s productions have found an audience in our wonderful land of Oz. The kids wind up having an absolute ball because they are encouraged to boo and hiss the villains and cheer the “good” characters on. Hi-5’s Lachlan Dearing was endearing as the respectable, titular character.

One of the real crowd favourites from this year’s show was Jimmy Giggle AKA Jimmy Rees who has performed in Lythgoe’s pantos before. He was playing Jack’s simpleton brother, Simon. The latter had the kids in the audience eating out of the palm of his hands with a dance called the Floss. This was good-natured fun and was reprised quite a few times in the show. There were even two separate occasions when an audience member named Paul lead the theatre in the dance. By the end of the night, this started to wear a little thin for the adults, but the kids absolutely loved it and some even busted a few moves from their own seats.

The night’s script was written by Christopher Wood and stayed true to the original fairy-tale. It also included some modern, Australian references. Jack lives in poverty with his strong-willed mother Dame (Malcolm Lord). They are forced to sell the family cow, Daisy in order to make ends meet. But unbeknownst to Jack, Flesh Creep (Luke Joslin) has duped him out of gold and instead given him a bag full of beans. We learn from the sparkly fairy, Crystal (Lucy Durack) that these are magic ones. Jack has to climb the beanstalk to slay the giant. If he succeeds, he will win the hand of the Princess (Anastasia Feneri), the daughter of King Crumble (Kath & Kim’s Peter Rowsthorn, proving he can actually sing). Rounding out the star cast is gossip reporter, Richard Reid as the Lord Chancellor.

This show used a 3D sequence for the part where the characters encounter the giant. This was an interesting, modern touch and it really put the audience amongst the action. Sadly, the same thing cannot be said about a long and awkward part where three kids got up on-stage to sing and dance towards the end. This part seemed to be tacked on and probably would’ve worked better at the start of the second act, rather than just before the very end.

The set was a bright and colourful one filled with lots of glitter. The costumes were also very eye-catching and vibrant. These things would have been dazzling for the younger kids to watch. The fairy appealed to most of the girls while many of the boys loved the sense of adventure lead by Jack. The adults meanwhile, were treated to some double entendres and innuendo. One scene borrowed from Abbott & Costello’s famous “Who’s On First” routine. Meanwhile, Daisy the Cow got up to some mischief with a slapstick gag about her kicking the bucket.

Jack & the Beanstalk was once again another rollicking good time from Bonnie Lythgoe and company. The show was a charming and joyous one that featured a little something for everyone. This all-singing, all-dancing and funny spectacle was lots of fun for the family. Brace yourselves for an amusing and adventurous tale from long ago…


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