Jack And The Beanstalk Is Brilliant Fun At Wolverhampton Grand

What are the ingredients of the perfect panto? A handsome lead man and a beautiful leading lady? A fabulous dame with a series of eye popping costumes? A comedy sidekick who has all the best lines but doesn’t get the girl? A fairy who holds the show together with her magical narration? A baddie who makes the audience boo and hiss? And Doreen Tipton? If the answer to all the above is yes, then you are in for a total treat at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this Christmas, as Jack and the Beanstalk have reunited last year’s dream team of Lisa Riley, Ian Adams, Adam C Booth and Doreen Tipton, and have added Gareth Gates, Graham Cole and Sarah Vaughan to this cast and have created a dream of a panto. It is seriously good fun.

The traditional story of Jack and the Beanstalk is one of the best known (and in my opinion) the best of all pantos, with it’s beanstalk, giants and goose that lays the golden egg. It is also ripe for hilarity, with Daisy the Cow taking centre stage for so many of the jokes. And you will never see anything as funny as the scene stealing Doreen Tipton (Gill Jordan) attempting to milk the said cow along with Dame Trott (Ian Adams also on hilarious form). That said, this is a panto that is full of side splittingly funny scenes and songs, ones that leave you still having a little chuckle long after you have left the theatre.

The whole cast is gloriously funny, all with their tongues firmly in cheek in the best of panto traditions. Gareth Gates as Jack still sings like an angel and his performance of Unchained Melody had many in the audience fondly remembering his performances on Pop Idol, whilst he has good stage presence to play the handsome hero. He is well teamed with Sarah Vaughan as Jill, who shows that she can also handle slapstick in her hilarious love scene with Gareth that is interrupted by Simple Simon with manically chaotic results. Screen Veteran Graham Cole is a super baddie as Fleshcreep, totally hamming up his wickedness, you can see how much he is enjoying himself, which totally adds to the fun and mayhem. Lisa Riley is again brilliant in her role, holding everything together with her Mother Nature, and very funny flinging toilet rolls into the audience during the crazy version of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas.’

 

But once again it is the side characters who steal this panto. Ian Adams is a fantastic dame, he has all the rude lines and brings the house down with them, as well as showcasing some of the funniest costumes seen on the Grand stage. His knowing asides to the audience about the quality of the jokes are super funny and raise laughs throughout. Adam C Booth makes a welcome return to the Grand after his super funny performance as Wishy Washy last year, and, at this rate will become the Grand’s Matt Slack, he is such a crowd pleaser. His scene with the market store where he tells a story with all the products his brilliant, as is his poo, boo, moo rhyming scene. But once again it is Doreen Tipton who absolutely brings the house down with her hilarious lines and deadpan delivery. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as funny as Doreen dancing, I didn’t think a dancer could be referred to as idle, but Doreen has this honour, and that is a total compliment.

The songs, the scenery, the direction is all admirable, making this another triumphant panto for the Grand.

Great Fun – Go see.

Wed 13 Dec – Sun 14 Jan

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

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Peter Pan – Christmas In Neverland Is Coming Soon To The Arena Birmingham

The Worlds Biggest Pantomime is back in Birmingham for a host of new Christmas shows this December. The latest show is ‘PETER PAN- CHRISTMAS IN NEVERLAND’, a stunning new spectacular super-sized for the Arena Birmingham stage. It promises to be a stunning, unmissable Christmas spectacle that is not to be missed, whether you are seven or seventy!

PETER PAN – CHRISTMAS IN NEVERLAND stars Bradley Walsh as Mr Smee, Martin Kemp as Captain Hook and Matt Knight as Peter Pan. Bradley says: “I’m so excited to be appearing in PETER PAN. It really is an extraordinary production, the like of which has never been seen before!  It has a life-size galleon, a 25 foot crocodile, plus a cast of over 100!  It’s a big, bold arena extravaganza and a festive treat with something for everyone.

J.M. Barries original story and characters will be brought to life in PETER PAN – CHRISTMAS IN NEVERLAND, by a cast of over 100 performers, including a thrilling team of BMX riders, stuntmen and trapeze artists, along with a seven-metre-long animatronic crocodile! This amazing new show will be performed across three arena stages on a stunning movie-style Neverland set.  The Jolly Roger Galleon will sail around the arena in front of a 10,000-gallon water wall.  From any position in the audience, you are close to the action, with a giant 60 feet-wide LED screen, computer graphic imagery and a live close-up TV-relay ensuring never a moment is missed.

 PETER PAN – CHRISTMAS IN NEVERLAND is directed by Jon Conway, designed by Wellington Scenic, with lighting design by Jamie Corbidge and sound design by Dave Shepherd, and is presented by arrangement with Great Ormond Street Hospital Childrens Charity & Samuel French Ltd.

PETER PAN- CHRISTMAS IN NEVERLAND

 20-24 December, Arena Birmingham

 Tickets for the new Arena Birmingham show are on general sale from 9am 17 November 2017 from www.theticketfactory.com or by calling 0844 33 88 222 *Calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.  Tickets for all other performances are on sale now.  Tickets priced at £27.90/£41.40/£52.20/£60.30 (Prices include admin fees and 90p facility fee) + £2.55 fulfilment fee per order.

Website:  www.worldsbiggestpanto.com

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101 Dalmatians at the Rep Birmingham – Just Wonderful

How a 101 Dalmatians would play as a stage show, particularly one based more on the Dodie Smith book rather than the Disney version was a question that I had been asking, particularly after watching a rehearsal session early last month. The answer is that it is a totally wonderful, heartwarming piece of theatre that makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you gasp at the sheer brilliance of the puppetry, and gasp at what is the cutest spectacle you will see all Winter. It is, is short, a masterpiece that I totally fell in love with.

Morgan Philpott_Mr Dearly Nadi Kemp-Sayfi _Mrs Dearly Oliver Wellington_Pongo Emma Thornett_Missis credit: Graeme Braidwood

Pongo and Missis meet when their owners fall in love. It is love at first sight for the dalmatians too, and soon they are one big happy family, a happiness that is further enhanced by the news that Missis is expecting a delivery of pups. But that happiness is short lived when Mrs Dearly bumps into an old school friend, Cruella De Vil, a fur obsessed creature who takes and unhealthy interest in the puppies. Little do the Dearly’s know that Cruella is currently coveting, indeed obsessing over a dalmatian fur coat, and needs the dalmatian pups to make her warped dream a reality. The Dearly’s refuse to sell their puppies to her, but there is more than one way to skin a pup, and with the help of her husband Horace, and her henchmen the Badduns, she devises a plan to steal the puppies and get her coat. Will Pongo and Missis, and their friend Perdita, get the puppies back before Cruella is able to carry out her evil plan?

Morgan Philpott (Mr Dearly) Gloria Onitiri (Cruella) with Pongo & Missis credit: Graeme Braidwood

First we need to talk about the puppets that dominate the stage for large parts of the show. The range of ways that have been developed by puppetry designer Jimmy Grimes to house so many dogs on the stage are both ingenious and delightful. They truly enchant the audience, particularly the youngest members. There are a range of dogs and cats, as well as the dalmatians, and the fact that they dogs have been created to resemble their owners is just a wonderful, funny touch. In addition, all the animals have their own character and personality that is brought to live wonderfully by the talented puppeteers. In particular, Pongo, Perdita and Missis are exquisite, given their own unique personalities and mannerisms by Oliver Wellington, Lakesha Cammock and Emma Thornett. You feel their pain at losing their puppies, and this is no mean feat when you are working with animal puppets.

Oliver Wellington (Pongo) credit: Graeme Braidwood

Of course, there are also acting performances by humans in this play, and, in Gloria Onitiri, we have a true Cruella who dismisses the other Cruella’s with just a swish of her fur cape. She is phenomenal, dominating the stage with her style, beauty and cruelness. Her monologues, which she sings, are so powerful and memorable, and, it has to be said, wickedly funny too. She may not have got her wish to get that coat, but you know she would have totally rocked it, in all honesty.

Gloria Onitiri (Cruella de Vil) credit: Graeme Braidwood

Cruella is supported brilliantly by the fabulous Jo Servi as Horace. The dynamics of his relationship with Cruella are integral to the play, and they have wonderful chemistry together. Highlights of his performance include the jazzy 1920s dance routines that he performs with Cruella, and his own final monologue.

Luke Murphy (Saul) Lewis Griffin (Jasper) Gloria Onitiri (Cruella de Vil) Jo Servi (Horace De Vil) credit: Graeme Braidwood

The Dearly’s are lovely. Nadi Kemp-Sayfi is perfect as Mrs Dearly, the right combination of kindness, and a bit of insecurity when Cruella is around. Morgan Philpott shines as Mr Dearly, having a lot of the shows funny lines as he gets confused over whether it is his wife, or the dog that is pregnant, and also very funny as he describes Cruella, unaware she is listening to every word.

The Badduns are also hilariously funny in their ineptness and reluctance to hurt the puppies. They have so many funny moments, from their dance routine to something that resembles ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, to the way they try to catch the escaping puppies, encountering the older dogs and the feisty cat Tibbs (Mei Mac). Their musical number is performed with verve and swagger, and even though they are bad through and through, the audience absolutely loved them.

Luke Murphy (Saul) Lewis Griffin (Jasper) and ensemble credit: Graeme Braidwood

The whole play is flawless, from the pastel coloured sets, the stunning costumes worn by Gloria Onitiri, to the perfection of the direction from Tessa Walker.

This is one show that should not be missed this Christmas. It is simply stunning.

101 Dalmatians

Birmingham Rep

30 Nov 2017 – 13 Jan 18

Click here for ticket information