Jack and the Beanstalk

Dec 2 2018 | By More

★★★★☆     Giant fun

Brunton Theatre: Tue 27 Nov 2018 – Sat 5 Jan 2019
Review by Martin Gray
Tickets and details:  Book here.

There’s a happy ending, beginning and indeed, middle, as Jack and the Beanstalk gets a Musselburgh makeover at the Brunton theatre this festive season.

With characters including a scary giant and a friendly coo, the fairytale can be a big challenge, but the Brunton panto production team weren’t cowed. They had a theatre full of excited kids and expectant adults and delivered the goods, and then some.

Ewan Petrie (Prince) Graham Crammond (Dame) and Ross Donnachie (Jack). Pic: Bill Mackellar

You know the story. Daft lad sells bovine best pal for a handful of magic beans, a beanstalk sprouts overnight and he climbs up it to a magical kingdom in the clouds, where he annoys an ogre with his thieving ways. The basic story is the same in director John Binnie’s script, though Jack gains a sister, Jilly – in this day and age, girls get to have adventures too.

Jack’s still the one who loses the cow, though; his brainy sis is too busy moo-ning over Prince Designer Labels to help their mother pay the rent arrears. Mum is local milk mogul Mither Mandy Moo Moo, who spends all her cash on appalling outfits. Also around is the giant’s henchwoman, a TV presenter, a rent collector and a magic beans supplier, who look strangely alike. And, of course, Daisy the Cow, who emits more natural gas than Russia.

Appearing in his first Brunton Christmas show, Ross Donnachie’s Jack is the first player on stage, and he does a terrific job of setting the tone with his couthy manner. There’s something of a young Des Clarke in his fizzing performance, as he invites the boys and girls, and mums and dads, into his gang. I never knew I wanted to see someone sing the Gershwins’ Embraceable You to an embraceable coo until now, but life suddenly seems so much better.

joyously jolly Jilly

Eilidh Weir returns to the theatre for the third year running… and dancing, singing and generally joking as a joyously jolly Jilly. I’d love her to sing all the songs in Jilly’s accent, though – an otherwise sweet rendition of Hairspray’s I Can Hear the Bells was pure Glee. Still, she has a fine time as the feisty young lass who can’t believe she’s falling for a handsome prince.

Ewan Petrie (Prince) and Eilidh Weir (Jilly). Pic: Bill Mackellar

Likewise, dashing Prince Designer Labels isn’t expecting to fall for a downmarket dolly – he’s already in love with himself and his bling – but he can’t resist Jilly’s charms when she demands he helps her family out. Smooth-voiced Ewan Petrie is suitably suave, though he does look a tiny bit uncomfortable at having to wear a bizarre bejewelled codpiece over his trousers.

Wendy Seager looks perfectly at home in skintight gold – unsurprising, given she spent years in an ABBA tribute act – and has a ball. She’s a hoot throughout, whether doing a Cock-er-ney accent, broad Scots or Bond villain, and her singing fills the auditorium.

You can’t have a successful panto without a great Dame, and Graham Crammond gets the crowd on side immediately with brassy bravura. A seasoned performer, Crammond bounces especially well off Donnachie – we have the makings of a good panto double act here. And he looks amazing wearing easyJet as Mither Mandy Moo Moo arrives in the giant’s kingdom.

Hayley Keating and Sean O’Brien partner up to bring us their Daisy the Coo and coo-dos to them for a nimble performance – there’s not a single problem with coo-ordination.

cooked in a cauldron

While always entertaining, the show might benefit from a bit of pruning – a sequence involving TV show The Voice didn’t add anything but a drab pop song. And the sound needed sharpening for Jilly and her prince’s love ballad as they’re being cooked in a cauldron; either way, the kids seemed to find it too soppy for such a dramatic moment.

Graham Crammond. Pic Robin Mitchell

A silent comedy sequence centred on The Great Brunton Bakeoff didn’t elicit the hoped-for guffaws from the audience… today’s young ‘uns simply aren’t primed for such classic stuff. Maybe add a few verbal jokes and a bit more slapstick.

Plenty of points are deserved for the amount of interaction with the audience, with fairytale folk launching themselves into the auditorium at regular intervals, to great comic effect. There’s also a very artistic, effective presentation of the beanstalk manifesting.

Musical director Tommie Travers had the audience tapping – and occasionally singing – along to such favourites as 500 Miles and Mr Blue Sky, the latter showing off the enthusiastic children of the chorus – never were there such cute clouds.

The costumes and set, overseen by Robin Mitchell, are better than ever, full of glam and glitter.

As a way into the festive season, the Brunton’s Jack and the Beanstalk is a winner, one guaranteed to only get better throughout the run. Oh yes it will!

Running time: Two hours  (including one interval).
The Brunton, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA.
Tuesday 27 November 2018 – Saturday 5 January 2019
Various times see website for details.
Tickets and details:  Book here.


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