A magical giant-sized show for the whole family *****
If the fairy godmother herself waved a magic wand and produced a pantomime it probably couldn't top Jack and the Beanstalk. Filled to the brim with sing-along songs, dazzling costumes and some impressive technical wizardry the show was the very definition of what a pantomime should be. And from the thunder of "he's behind you" and "oh no it isn't" that came from the audience it wasn't just me that thought so. Little faces beamed at the stage, leaping out of their seats to bop up and down with excitement as Jack made his way up the beanstalk.
Imagine Theatre has returned to The Hexagon once again to produce the Christmas pantomime and each year the company brings something bigger and better than before. And this time things have gone giant-sized. The theatrics of the show were undoubtedly the best yet - the set quite literally sparkled, the beanstalk which grew during a glow-in-the-dark sequence was fantastic, and without giving too much away, the giant was crafted with such ingenuity it made me want to take my Santa hat off to the technical team.
But while it's all very well having the glitz on stage, a pantomime is nothing without its cast.
Paul Morse as Dame Trot was utterly fabulous, played with bags of attitude which had the grown-ups belly-laughing as much as the kids. Dressed in an array of wacky costumes (the burger was a personal favourite), Dame Trot strutted across the stage in five inch heels, gently picking on a front-row audience member like a seasoned stand-up comic. The traditional messy scene, which involved Dame Trot and Simple Simon (Jon Clegg) making lemon meringue pies, was also a triumph, a riotous scene which saw misplaced wigs and all out hilarity.
Clegg, a comedy impressionist, showcased a real talent for vocal mimicry, with Gary Barlow, Louis Walsh and Bruce Forsyth all getting the vocal treatment. Some impressions were a little brief, and with a talent this good it would almost be worth giving Simple Simon a proper segment of his own. It would also have been nice to see a bit more of Daisy the pink and blue pantomime cow, who had a few nice little skits, but not enough to make her all that memorable.
Leading the cast as hero of the hour Jack Trot was former Eastenders actress Emma Barton, who was upbeat and charismatic, and had a sensational singing voice, explaining why she has been such a hit in the West End since leaving Albert Square. Princess Tamara, Bracknell's own Dani Harmer, was equally charming, her rendition of Somewhere Only We Know a touching moment. Keeping the story rolling was the lovely Debbie McGee, who was as lovely as her name suggests. All fairy-like with twinkly lights in her hair and a glittering dress, Debbie was like everyone's favourite Auntie.
While retaining the traditional elements of pantomime, like having a female play the male principal, there were flourishes of the modern, with pop songs from the likes of Take That interspersed with a few original numbers.
With plenty of action and entertainment to keep all members of the family happy, Imagine Theatre has the pantomime formula spot-on and this year’s larger-than-life production might just be their most magical yet.
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