Latest Review – Jack and the Beanstalk [Opera House, Manchester] 🌱


Opera House, Manchester

Until Sunday 31st December 2023

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Panto season has arrived in Manchester – “oh yes it has!” – and it’s an absolute cracker, with fan favourites Jason Manford and Ben Nickless once again teaming up for this year’s festive offering.

With eye-wateringly funny jokes, outstanding performances, top-notch visuals and fabulous designs, this is Manchester’s finest panto in years, and the team have set a extremely high bar for next year’s production to match.

The production may be a little light on what might be called traditional pantomime elements – no ghost gag and no friendly panto dame perhaps being the most notable omissions – but this is very much a star vehicle for Manford and Nickless as our hero Jack Trot and his brother Silly Simon, and both are on stage for the vast majority of the show.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Phil Tragen, 2023

This Jack and the Beanstalk opens in the Royal Kingdom of Mancunia as the good-hearted Mancunians prepare to put on a Royal Variety Show. When the beautiful Princess Jill is captured by the evil giant Blunderbore, Jack and Simon must find a way to venture up to the City of Clouds and Stars, rescue the Princess, and save Mancunia once and for all. Throw in some magic beans, Jack’s beloved cow, Pat, and a magical fairly to help guide our heroes along, and all the standard plot points are there!

The production establishes very early on that this is very much Jason Manford playing Jack and Ben Nickless playing Simon, and maybe breaks the illusion of panto-land a little too often, but the pair are nevertheless exceptional together and prove a superb double act. Both are just effortless in their roles, feed off each other so well, and demonstrate impeccable comic timing and improvisational skills. Even the well-rehearsed ‘cod corpses’ are executed to perfection.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Phil Tragen, 2023

Myra DuBois brings her usual sharp-tongued wit and take-no-prisoners approach to the role of the wicked Myra Blunderbore, wife of the giant, in a riotously funny performance. Tip: Just don’t sit in the front rows if you are a gruff looking man; you will be chosen!

There are a lovely performances too from four-time Olivier Award nominee Emma Williams as Princess Jill and Samara Casteallo as The Spirit of the Beans, though both, sadly, are underused, as are a chorus who make just a few fleeting appearances throughout the production.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Phil Tragen, 2023

Musically, we get treated to a host of musical theatre classics, including versions of “Giants in the Sky” from Sondheim’s Into the Woods, plus “Pharaoh Story” and “Any Dream Will Do” from Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, amongst others, with Manford once again showcasing his impressive vocals.

The front of cloth gags featured are again brilliantly executed, including a rather risqué tongue twister between Jack, Simon and Myra, and the much-loved “If I Were Not Upon The Stage” routine, with the aforementioned trio now joined by Jill for a sequence of much silliness and physical comedy.

Some of the more traditional elements may be missing, and there are occasions when it can feel like you’ve wandered into a stand-up comedy gig, but bursting with double entendre, innuendo and laugh-out-loud comedy, Jack and the Beanstalk is an absolute triumph, and surely one of the best pantomimes you will see anywhere this Christmas!

Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

Final Performance at the Opera House, Manchester: Sunday 31st December 2023

For more information, and to book tickets, please CLICK HERE.


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