Review: Jack and the Beanstalk, Derby Arena

Pictures by Robert Day

Derby Arena’s Jack and the Beanstalk is one ginormous giant of a show and deserves nothing less than a five star review.

Little Wolf Entertainment are taking the panto world by storm with their refreshing and skilful blend of tradition and innovation.

The script was a masterpiece, the singing impeccable and the whole production team superbly professional. They didn’t even let a technical blip (which could have been a major disaster) in the opening minutes faze them.

Hand on heart this was the finest pantomime I have ever seen – and I can assure you that over too many years to mention I have seen dozens.

Morgan Brind is a tour de force as the show’s co-producer, writer and designer, but it is his role as the pantomime dame that he clearly relishes the most.

He belts around the stage with a dynamic energy that leaves you gasping in amazement and has a rapport with the audience that would be the envy of many a dame strutting their stuff elsewhere this festive season.

Dame Trott’s stupendous costumes became more outrageous with each breakneck change backstage. My all-time favourite was the ice cream ensemble  with its ‘silly cone implants’ (geddit) on the shoulders.

The audience was in tears with laughter at the side-splitting slapstick that ensued during the ice cream making scene with Simple Simon, played by the lovably hilarious Richard Brindley.

Having said all that Brind, as producer, was savvy enough not to hog the limelight so much that the rest of the cast were not able to shine. 

The headlining star of the show, Duncan James, from the Noughties pop band Blue and more recently Ryan from Hollyoaks, was outstanding as Jack and the young audience loved him. 

They were obviously treated to some terrific renditions from his boy band heyday, but he also did a fantastic job with A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman and The Climb by Miley Cyrus.

Little Wolf Entertainment has also given Derby audiences the chance to enjoy its award-winning baddie Lawrence Boothman this year by casting him in the role of Cess Pitt – the creepy right hand man to the gruesome giant. The boos and hisses his villainy received are testament to his skill as a superior slime ball.

Derby’s own Bethan Nash was the perfect choice for the feisty Princess Jill and it was great to see her breaking with tradition a fraction by taking on the baddies in a sword fight crying out “it’s alright guys, I’ve got this.” 

The script is packed with local references, but the audience especially loved Simple Simon’s use of one of Derby’s actual E-Bikes as a mode of transport. The subsequent banter about the city’s eco-friendly status brought about one of the best lines of the night – “Spondon’s had unleaded churches for years” – simply brilliant. 

The whole show was infectiously good fun and if it doesn’t win buckets of prizes at The Great British Panto Awards I will eat one the Dame’s hats, preferably of the ice cream variety.

Jack and The Beanstalk, directed by Tim Ford, has been brought to Derby Arena by Derby LIVE and can be seen until January 5. For tickets click here.

The rest of the cast not already mentioned are Lizzie Wofford as Fairy Story, Tim Phelps as Harold the Herald, Peter Kenworthy as King Dominic.

The ensemble are Jordanna Hemingway, Rachael Ridley, Lauren Coyle, Thomas Mark, Daniel Noah and Dan Ablitt.

The Runner Beans are Macie Barrington, Eva Seaton, Robyn Kirk, Arwen Bennett, Ocean McClymont Barber, Sasha David, Daniel Moore and Anna Rogers. The Kidney Beans are Sophy Lamb, Grace Lawlor, Serai Bondswell, Eleanor Grace Denman, Niamh Eagles, Patricia Natividad, Meghan Paige Wills, and Thea Perry. The Baked Beans are Charlotte Brake, Serena Madden, Emma Sherman, Jenna Wilbraham, Dallas Welsh, Joseph Green, Lily Boddice and Cherekee Taylor. The band is Peter John Dodsworth, Nathan Harding and John Clark.

The choreographer is Rae Piper, lighting designer Mark Dymock, sound designer James Cook and fight director Ian Stapleton.