The Regent Panto is always a much-anticipated part of local entertainment. From its launch in late Summer to the time queues form to purchase the tickets, the excitement mounts to a fever pitch as the opening night arrives.
The important question is whether all the waiting will end in anti-climax? The answer is always the same and in traditional manner that response is “Oh no it won’t”. Jack and the Beanstalk sees Jonathan Wilkes and crew all at the top of their effervescent form and eager to stamp their own brand of Christmas Spirit onto the good folk of North Staffordshire and beyond.
From the opening number that changes the words of “We Built This City” into a hymn of homage to the City of Stoke-on-Trent, the audience is hooked and embraces the cast with affection.
Farmer Trot (Kai Owen) and his son Jack (Wilkes) have hit financial rock-bottom and are forced to have to sell their last remaining cow Daisy.
Jack and his girlfriend Princess Jill (Michelle Andrews) are upset at the prospect of selling their last piece of livestock and are eager to find a good and caring home for her.
Unfortunately, the evil Fleshcreep (Noel Sullivan) has other ideas. He is tasked with the target of finding as much meat as possible to furnish the table of his ever-greedy master – the Giant of the City of Clouds and Stars.
When the sly servant tricks Jack into selling the much-loved animal for a bag of beans, all seems lost. However, the Spirit of the Beans (Rio Maye) will do her best to rescue the situation and this leads to an adventurous climb of the beanstalk as good attempts to overcome evil.
Wilkes and Owen have deservedly become renowned for their prowess in the field of Christmas theatre and they have combined to co-direct a superb slice of memorable fun and laughter that combines the familiar and the new.
Audience members will recognise some of the revamped routines that have given pleasure over the years and it is always a delight to hear the terribly tough tongue-twister routine. Sections like this are loved by the audience who hope for mishap but there is plenty else to delight. The Trunk of Truth is totally titillating and tittersome and the routine in which the main four characters tell the tale of what professions they could have followed brings mayhem on stage and in the audience.
But everyone wants a wow factor in their pantomime and this delivers in spades. The 3-D sequence is truly out of this world and has the younger members of the audience screaming – partly in fear but mainly excitement.
Wilkes and Owen have a chemistry that works both on and off the stage and their love of the City, The Regent and Potteries people is sincere and is returned a hundred-fold by the audiences.
However, it is not just a two-man show, The cast are truly magnificent with the returning Maye giving a youthful sweetness and joy to her role and Andrews showing all the music and movement skills learned in her career in musical theatre. A beautiful love interest.
The ensemble provides vivacity to the whole experience and what a coup to bring Sullivan to the Regent. The former Hear’Say star effortlessly adapted to the Johnny Wilkes experience and will hopefully become a regular in the panto family. He plays the most lovable baddie that can be imagined.
With fabulous lighting effects, some gorgeous costumes and scenery and top-notch choreography Jack and The Beanstalk provides a perfect seasonal treat and really is an experience that the West End regular would pay an arm and a leg for. Young or old, a regular to the Regent or a panto newbie, there is something for everyone to savour.
Take advantage of another great production. I did and do you know what? It is definitely beginning to seem like Christmas.
Jack and the Beanstalk has a running time of approximately two hours and continues until January 7th. For ticket details contact atgtickets.com/stoke