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REVIEW: Jack & The Beanstalk at Sunderland Empire

Jack & The Beanstalk
Sunderland Empire
Until Sunday 7th January 2018

We had a trip up to the upper circle of the Empire to watch the Sunderland plant chopping panto in action. Visually bold & brassy, clearly a few quid had been spent on the sets and costumes. We also had a live band, under Musical Director Mike Turnbull, which we approve of. So far, so good.

This was another panto performance an understudy in a significant part as Jack was played by Danny Couto. It is always going to be a tough gig when you go from an ensemble role to the titular character. Danny was off book and he did alright. David Barrett should return to the role of Jack next week.

The highlights include Dame Nellie Trott, performed fabulously by experienced local lad Philip Meeks. There was something very Christopher Biggins about his style and he has a great singing voice too. Nick Jr’s Go!Go!Go! star Jade Natalie appears as Princess Jill was positively charming and she could really sing too.

The Fairy Godmother helps with narration and sorting out any holes in the plot. Janine Duvitski is perfectly suited to the role.  The dancers were put to good use at the start but seemed to be under used later on. 

Daisy the cow gets the award for the best dancing cow we've ever seen on panto. She was busting some great moves.

The show improved in the second act, the pace was better and the jokes occasionally worked. We had thought the 3D fad had passed but it was used to good effect in order to have a large animated Giant and the usual creepy crawlies flying out at the audience. Certainly, the audience seemed impressed and were screaming at the right points.

The take-off scene was also done using the 3D. The kids were loving screaming "it's behind you!". This scene may be a common feature of most pantos now but so are corny jokes and it is popular with young audiences. No one "owns" this particular concept or the songs used. Indeed, this season it has been more common than the messy scene. This show has that too and the custard pies were soon flying around.

As someone who doesn't watch much TV the jokes based upon programmes that the stars appeared in were lost on me. The thing is, I cannot imagine the younger members of the audience getting them either. Personally, I'd like to see more non-TV jokes in the script, especially in the first act.

Jack and the Beanstalk is a pleasant panto that looks good and makes good use of the 3D effects. Plus it has Daisy the amazing dancing cow!

Relaxed performance: Wednesday 27 December at 5pm.

Family offerFamily 3+ £21pp Band A and £18pp Band B, must include at least one child in group (all performances until Friday 22 December 10.15am, and Tuesday 2 – Sunday 7 January).

NEW for 2017! Pantomime Experience – customers can add some sparkle to their visit and treat their child to the ultimate panto experience! Join the team in the Ambassador Lounge for pre-show panto fun, games and refreshments, together with a visit from one of Jack’s* friends. Costs and T&C’s apply.*This will not involve pantomime cast members.

Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or from our affiliate ATG Tickets*calls cost 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

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