Jack and the Beanstalk at the Orchard Theatre

WOW! What an absolutely stunning Pantomime The Orchard Theatre, Dartford in the form of Jack and the Beanstalk have on their hands this year!

Jack and the Beanstalk is a staple in the panto world, and what better way to celebrate that than with actual Pantomime Royalty Christopher Biggins!

Upon arriving at the theatre and looking through the programme, I was a little concerned to see such a small cast and wondered how we were going to see the usual spectacular that we have come to expect from the Orchard.  Well, I certainly needn’t have worried as I was met with a beautifully traditional yet up to date 21st century pantomime.  It had everything you would expect, the stunning sets, the clever effects, plenty of audience participation, the slapstick comedy, a UV scene, a song sheet and not only a giant rat but a giant…..giant! But not only that, it had class performances, great singing, dancing and acting and a focus on the traditions of Panto rather than relying solely on the effects.

We arrive in the village of ‘Cringeing at The Crossing’ where Jack (Pearce Barron) and his brother Simon (Rikki Jay) live with their mother Dame Trot (Christopher Biggins) We meet Princess Apricot (Kiera-Nicole) who convinces Jack that is he defeats the Giant who lives up the beanstalk, then her father King Crumble (Derek Elroy) will allow him to marry her.  However, Fleshcreep (David O’Mahony) has other ideas and does everything in his power to thwart Jack’s efforts.  Nevertheless, with the help of the Spirit of the Beans (Emily Beth Harrington) he defeats the giant and wins the hand of Apricot.

Biggin’s class and obvious love for this genre and theatre in general is infectious and contributes greatly to the success of this wonderful show. A consummate professional with perfect comic timing, he heads up this wonderfully talented cast as Dame Trot, the fabulously adorned mother of Jack.

Barron was every inch the perfect principal boy, full of enthusiasm with outstanding singing and dancing skills his energy was contagious (literally at one point!) He had a lovely rapport with Kiera-Nicole as the princess and her background as a childrens TV presenter really shone through as she took care to really connect with the children in the audience. Elroy’s silky-smooth voice was like melting chocolate, utterly stunning, I wish we could have heard more however Emily Beth Harrington’s rendition of Arianna Grande’s ‘One last time’ was absolutely magnificent. What a voice! This coupled with the fantastic choreography from Katherine Iles, made this number and Harrington an absolute show stealer.

The star in my (and my 8-year-old son’s) eyes was without question, Rikki Jay as Simple Simon Trot.  There were just so many scenes to rejoice.  The Trolley scene, the lip syncing (which had my son crying with laughter) the mastermind scene with so many quick-fire jokes again and again, the hilarious tongue twister where even the devilishly evil O’Mahony joined in the fun (with a well-timed slip, meaning little ears probably missed it!) Jay’s timing, sense of fun and overall professionalism kept the show at a great pace and the perfect level of absolute joy for the whole family.

This is hands down, the best pantomime I have seen for a long, long, time. Absolutely marking the start of Christmas, and the return of theatre after a challenging couple of years.  Well done and thank you to the whole cast and crew! Make time to go and see this. It’s Simply Wonderful!

Review by Amy Farlie

Jack and the Beanstalk is on at The Orchard Theatre until 2nd January. You can find out more and book tickets here.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Sleeping Beauty at the Churchill Theatre, Dick Whittington at New Wimbldon Theatre and Bedknobs and Broomsticks on tour.

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