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North Essex Theatre Guild (NETG) Review of 'Jack and the Beanstalk'


North Essex Theatre Guild


SHOWCASE FESTIVAL 2012/2013


ADJUDICATION

 

Group
Clacton Musical Theatre Group
Venue
West Cliff Theatre
Date of Adjudication
29th December 2012
Production
Jack and the Beanstalk
Director
Steve Liversedge
Adjudicated by
Jane Rayner and Liz Mullen

 

 

Front of House

When we arrived, there was a slight mix up over our tickets, which was resolved in an efficient and friendly manner.

The programme was glossy and well designed. There were photos of some of the cast and crew, and information about the society and the author.

Christmas decorations were still up in the theatre, which gave a festive feel. The matinee audience had lots of children, waving light up wands and light sabres. There was a lovely air of eager anticipation and a collective “Ooh!” as the lights went down.

 

Music

The show opened with a lively overture from the band, including “Knees up Mother Brown” and “When I’m 64.”

The musical director, Hector Moyes, and his fellow musicians played a variety of musical styles in a competent manner, never overpowering the singers.

 

Lighting and Sound

From the huge crash at the start of the show, followed by a booming “Fi, Fie, Fo Fum!” sound effects were there to enhance the action.

Lighting was excellently handled, creating different moods and the UV section was a treat to behold.

 

Set

The sets were painted in traditional panto fashion. The first scene was set above the clouds, with blue sky and white clouds. There was the village with its Tudor style houses, the dame’s garden and the giant’s castle with oversized furniture and props.

 

Costumes

This was a nicely costumed show, giving a traditional panto look. Some of outfits were hired, some made, but they blended well together. Fairy Greenbean had a green wig and wore green and brown, a good contrast to Grisley, with his black boots and waistcoat with its big shoulders. There was attention to detail with the villagers’ costumes and the younger children looked suitably special in their sparkly

walk down outfits.

The giant’s costume was very special, making him easily 10 to 12 feet high. His hands and feet were huge.

The dame’s costumes were more subtle and pretty rather than outrageous and he wore court shoes and green character shoes. His wigs were also more realistic making him look more like a female impersonator rather than an obvious panto dame.

The wispy costumes for the opening of the second act looked gorgeous and suited the dance and the music.

I felt Jack would have looked better had she worn long boots. She seemed uncomfortable with her costume in the second half and fiddled with it rather a lot.

 

 

Grisley. Charlie Vaughan

From his first entrance, Grisley made a huge impact, getting boos from the audience, snarling out his lines in a deep, throaty voice. Once or twice, he started to speak over the booing so the beginning of a line was lost. (We saw the first performance – I’m sure that Charlie allowed for this in later shows.)

Charlie had two distinct laughs; one a rich, fruity chuckle, the other a traditional villain’s laugh, evil and menacing. He remained in character throughout, always sneering and thoroughly nasty. This was an excellent performance.

 

Simple Simon. Peter Spilling

Peter quickly established an easy rapport with the audience. He was able to ad lib, responding to what was happening on stage and comments from the audience. A likeable character. (I heard that this was Peter’s first pantomime. If so, he deserves even more praise for tackling such a vitally important role. The Simple Simon/ Lazy Jack/ Silly Billy type of character has to blend comedy with audience appeal, add a touch of pathos to grab our sympathy and be attractive enough to get married off at the end!)

 

Dame Durden. Steve Liversedge

Steve worked well with Simon and Jack. His duet with the Squire was a high point. They both showed their experience by not just singing the song, but performing it and their moves were well choreographed. However, he did need quite a few prompts, which obviously slowed the pace and possibly unsettled some of the other actors. He played the role well enough but I felt he didn’t really connect with the audience and at times appeared to be struggling.

 

Jack. Lucy Harris

This was a confident performance from Lucy, who has a lovely singing voice and moved well, giving Jack that necessary swagger that a principal boy needs. We were surprised to find that she is only thirteen. Sometimes her delivery was a little rushed and some of her lines needed more expression but this is something that will come with experience. She and Miranda worked well together.

 

Miranda. Gabrielle Tyler

Another young actress, only sixteen. Gabrielle needed to slow down her delivery to really get the most from her lines. She sometimes had her back to the audience but again, these small faults will disappear as she gains more experience. She has a pleasing singing voice and she seemed much more comfortable in the second half. The duets with Lucy were beautifully sung.

 

 

Fairy Greenbean. Tracey Williams

Greenbean has most of her scenes with Grisly and Tracey created a nicely contrasting character, with her Pam Ayres accent and her sweet nature.

 

Daisie. Ashleigh Masters and Ashlea Moore

A lovely pairing for the tricky role of the cow. They managed to create a character without being seen or speaking any lines. Their dancing was both slick and amusing and although Daisie couldn’t really change her facial expressions, you could almost believe she was! Well done.

 

Squire Goodnight. Ray Sharp

Ray brought out some of authority of the Squire but sometimes needed more expression. He was at his best during the duet with the dame.

 

Harriet. Katie Leech

Katie made an immediate and positive impact. She played the role as written, in a jolly hockey sticks manner, and lit up the stage. Her lines were delivered with pace and expression, she moved well and had a lovely voice. A small role but she really enhanced the action. Great stage presence. Well done.

 

Blunderbore. Peter Barnett

What a challenge for any actor, to play a giant, wearing a tall metal frame, supported on his shoulders. To move around the stage, to operate both mouth and eyes – and speak. I understand that Peter wasn’t able to try out the costume until quite close to the performances so well done for making it work so well.

 

Conclusion

The ensemble numbers were well choreographed. The opening chorus had a lively village scene with six main dancers and the village children in the background. After the initial scene setting with Fairy Greenbean and Grisley, to have the curtains open on such a cheerful, colourful and upbeat number was delightful. The positioning after the song was good. The villagers maintained a bustling business in the background.

The dance sequence to Carmina Burana was atmospheric with wind and rain sound effects, smoke machine, great lighting and a very well choreographed and executed routine. The U.V sequence was cleverly done, with dancing beans being planted, watered and growing into the beanstalk. We were disappointed that Jack made no attempt to climb it. The rest of the cast waved him off but it was obvious that he wasn’t going anywhere. Even just pretending to start to climb, perhaps with one small step concealed behind the beanstalk would have made so much more impact. Likewise, when the giant was defeated and presumably fell down the beanstalk, there was nothing to see. The script suggested his feet being shown but if they were, we couldn’t see them from our seats.

There was a lack of pace during the first half, possibly the result of quite a few prompts. There was some purposeless milling about on the clouds in act two. The script seemed to pad out the whole business of getting from the beanstalk to the giant’s castle.

The audience participation song was fairly well controlled. Around 40 children ended up on the stage. Having finally finished singing, around half of the children had started to return to their seats before the dame remembered to give out lollies. This caused a chaotic scramble for those children, and a lot more, to get back to the stage.

I t would have been good to see Simon Brett playing the dame, to see how he acted and reacted to the audience. We wondered if Steve had had to take the role at short notice, but were told he had known well in advance, so it was disappointing that he wasn’t completely confident with the lines. When any character needs more than one or two prompts, it affects both the rest of the cast and the audience.

It was a bold move to cast two such young performers as principal boy and girl and while they sang very nicely and had lots of confidence, they both needed to slow their delivery and think about what they were saying and the meaning behind the lines.

However, this was a bright, colourful and cheerful production with some real high points, especially the chorus numbers.

The cast all appeared to be enjoying themselves, and I’m sure this production was a nice post Christmas treat for the audience.

 

Jane Rayner and Liz Mullen