Jack and the Beanstalk at Birmingham Hippodrome Review

Jack and the Beanstalk at Birmingham Hippodrome Review


Posted 2023-12-20 by Alison in Birmingham follow

Sat 16 Dec 2023 - Sun 28 Jan 2024

It's a special year for Birmingham Hippodrome's 'Brum Panto' as Matt Slack marks his decade with the UK's biggest outside London and they've really gone to town. If you thought it couldn't get any better, then think again.

Jack and the Beanstalk is on at Birmingham Hippodrome until January 28 and this time stars much-loved Brummie presenter Alison Hammond.

The Great British Bake Off host dazzles in a great performance as the Spirit Of The Beans and there's a lot of love for her in the room. She gets a big entrance with dancers and a drum roll introduction that matches the huge roar from the crowd.

You'll have to wait a short while for her to appear as it's the panto's other celebrity name ex-EastEnders actress Samantha Womack who opens the show, setting the scene as evil Mrs Blunderbore from the giant's land. It's an inspired choice, having a top-rate actress like Womack as the baddie, whose acting prowess spans decades from Game On to the Kingsman movies. Womack, pictured below, commands attention and helps make the plot flow better than in previous years.

Womack is just one of the jigsaw pieces that help make the panto feel like a more well-rounded show this year. There are big musical numbers and a clear storyline between the comedy elements plus special effects with a wow factor.

Regulars Doreen Tipton as lovable 'Lazy Cow' and panto dame extraordinaire Andrew Ryan are belly-achingly funny but also impress with their singing voices in Les Mis style solos.

Jack and the Beanstalk's producer and director Michael Harrison has a background in West End musicals, working with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the recent revival of Sunset Boulevard starring Nicole Scherzinger. So it should be no surprise that he's brought more of those large-scale elements to the panto and it works amazingly well.

Interestingly, two of the leading characters of Jack and Princess Jill - Birmingham's Alexandra O'Reilly and Billie Kay respectively shown below - are primarily theatre singers and dancers. Although relatively unknown compared to recent years, their talent and fresh-faced enthusiasm makes them ideal for the roles.

As normal, Slack in his 10th year is the gel that holds it all together and along with the usual favourite routines, it's good to see new set pieces. His Strictly Come Dancing routine with Hammond is hilarious as they recreate iconic moments from Dirty Dancing. It's simply fab-u-lous, as Craig Revel Horwood would say.

It's the stage effects that lift this Brum Panto up a notch ahead of the interval. While huge giants at the beginning of the show are jaw-dropping, they are overshadowed by the huge beanstalk that grows from amid the audience up to the ceiling. Hammond oversees the magic in another special moment for the This Morning star.

If that wasn't enough, young Jack then climbs it, scaling his way up to the roof in a dramatic scene that really brings the fairytale alive for theatre-goers young and old. It keeps open-mouthed children on the edge of their seats and is the true spirit of how thrilling live theatre can be.

For once, it's not just the comedy that stands out in this festive show, although it is thoroughly uplifting and feel-good.

Slack has transformed Brum Panto beyond recognition over the past decade so it's fitting that he gets a solo section towards the end of the show to reminisce on his many roles. It's funny and sentimental with lyrics adapted to Frank Sinatra's song My Way - but don't worry, it's not a swan song as he'll be back next year with Peter Pan.

Jack and the Beanstalk panto at Birmingham Hippodrome feels bigger and better than ever with a Brummie-led first class cast, amazing effects and cracking comedy. It sparkles with joy from start to finish and has got to be the best yet.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tickets start from £18 from the Birmingham Hippodrome website here.

273259 - 2023-12-18 18:44:42


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