Theatre Severn’s Jack and the Beanstalk: Fresh, Fun, and Highly Original

Dancing zombies, fluffy dogs, Backstreet Boys and Sigmund Freud, the Theatre Severn’s 12th pantomime with Evolution is here, and it’s gorgeous.

Before the lights had even dimmed on the elegant emerald and amber stage, we were snapped out of conversation by the unmistakable voice of Shrewsbury’s legendary dame, the notoriously glorious Brad Fitt. After a fairy appears in a flurry of fiery sparkles to ‘magic on the set’, the stage erupts with dance and song and the 2023 panto begins…

With a selection of accomplished dancers trained at the likes of Urdang and all boasting impressive CVs, the routines were excellent, if a little less complex than usual with the recruitment of a troupe of young, local talent. Looking slightly nervous to begin with, it didn’t take long for them to warm up and prove a credit to the theatre with superb theatrical skills.

Although a very abstract take on the original fairy tale’s plot, it was fresh, fun, and highly original. Produced and written by Paul Hendy, what I found especially refreshing in this production was the feisty, strong-willed heroine. Somewhat unusually, the show wasn’t just a hero displaying strength and stereotypical masculinity, neither was it another predictable romance. Instead, it was modern, unconventional, and perfectly designed for today’s audience.

Describing the performance in three words, theatre manager David Jack called it ‘A-MA-ZING’ and thanked everyone involved including Simon (the sound wizard) and the generous sponsors (Katie’s Kids Kitchen and Toot Sweets). As usual, the array of talented actors never failed to impress, and Lucas Rush playing Luke Backinanger, was perhaps one of the best villains this panto has ever seen. Tommy Rollason also made a grand return after last year’s success, adding much of the wow-factor with his extensive skills repertoire which, like the impressive giant, had every child agog.

Fully immersed in the distant lands where cows dance, and sassy villains slay jazz hands, I enjoyed the variety of catchy songs, several of which were clever adaptations of well-known lyrics such as songs from The Killers, Backstreet Boys, and even Hamilton! Music-wise there really is something for everyone, from rap and Elton John to pop and heartfelt solos, however as we all know, things never stay sombre for long. I have to hand it to them, this year the comedy was first-class. Everyone was kept in Fitts of giggles throughout, and after the Mission Impossible dog-show scene, my cheeks were actually aching. The infamous love drone was dug out to home in on Dame Trott’s unsuspecting victim, and her outfits were so outlandish, you couldn’t even have dreamt them.

After a difficult month for the closely-knit town, this is the loveliest light-hearted and uplifting distraction one could wish for. Everyone was having fun; money was raised for charity upon the purchase of Dame Trott-donuts; and the entire atmosphere radiated festivity and warmth. And yes, Shrewsbury’s panto does have a real-live dog.

Header Image Credit: Pamela Raith

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