Jack & The Beanstalk

Date 19th February 2016
Society Urmston Musical Theatre
Venue Urmston Leisure Centre
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Rik Gaffney
Musical Director Ed Nurse
Choreographer Emma Harris

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Author: Kevin Proctor

The team who took the helm of last year’s wonderful production of ‘Cinderella’ are back with Rik Gaffney as the shows Director alongside Emma Harris as Choreographer and Ed Nurse in charge of the music! The tale of choice this year is one of my favourites; ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’! As if directing the panto wasn’t enough reward we see Rik also take on the role of the village idiot; Dozy Den - which, when looking at the bigger picture, shows signs of spreading himself too thin I’m sorry to report as it was evident he was without his director’s hat at some of the more crucial rehearsals. The running of the show wasn’t as fluid as it should have been and some of that script needed hacking as it did have a fair amount of drivel in it which made the show quite long.  

We got the jokes we’ve all heard and seen before but this is in no way a negative criticism as we all still find them funny, in some cases, even funnier when we know what’s coming!

UMT have a marvellous youth section, it would be an advantage to have seen them utilised more in the panto as they’re a very competent strength for the society and always perform with mounds of energy. A youth ensemble (as well as your adult one) would be most appropriate for this genre of production.

We were treated to a lively score to help tell the tale, a selection of pop songs with classic chart toppers from the 80’s through the 90’s and to the present day.

John Walker was our Dame Trott for the evening and, although he’s notorious for not knowing his lines, where he’s supposed to be and when this was by far the best I’ve seen him, he supplied us with most of the laughs of the show and appeared at ease.

As the hero of the piece we had Olivia Callighan as Jack who certainly looked the part and in some of her numbers demonstrated a competent and pleasant voice, it was rather unfortunate that her mic wasn’t on her side on the production I saw as it really was giving her trouble, why wasn’t this corrected during the run or at the very least during the interval? Instead, she was left to struggle through the rest of the show with what was evidently a faulty head mic, what a shame.   

We had a small troupe of dancers who popped up a few times to give us a merry romp which were always clean and drilled though it did feel a bit of a copout to give us the exact routine more than once, we can still tell it’s the same sequence even though it’s performed to a different piece of music!

The costumes were bright, colourful and typically pantomime all looking perfectly appropriate.

Helen Halfpenny as the Prime Minister’s running gag as the only royal employee having to fill every role of the entire kings army with a different hat for each title was delivered with a good sense of fun.

No panto would be complete without the immortal good vs evil. This was offered to us with Sarah Kirk as Fairy Beansprout who’s softly spoken voice and genuine persona conveyed the idealistic goodie opposite the wicked Poison Ivy relishingly played by Jaclyn Ollerenshaw.

The look of the production certainly was a big compliment to the final product which is testament to the efforts and lengths people go to within the society to contribute to making the show happen.

Many thanks as always and I look forward to the UMT juniors production in May!