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Jack and The Beanstalk

Fe-fi-fo-fum, a giant of a panto full of fun!

Jack and The Beanstalk Tickets



New Wimbledon Theatre

Sat 7 Dec 2024 - Sun 5 Jan 2025

Our review on Jack and The Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk - Opera House, Manchester - Thursday 7th December 2023 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

‘Tis the season for merriment, family, Christmas traditions, and all that jazz.  The panto at the Manchester Opera House ticks all of these boxes!  You will laugh till you pickle, share a brilliantly bonding time with your family, get all of those Christmassy vibes, and be wowed by the big musical theatre numbers.  A Christmas panto at The Opera House has been a personal tradition for countless years now, and every year I think, “How will they top this next year?”  But every year they do, and Jack And The Beanstalk is no exception.  It opens with a fizz of energy, neon colours flashing everywhere, and a song and dance routine that gave me the Disney feels.  It was magical, and immediately demanded your full attention.  Butterflies fill the stage, and who doesn’t love a butterfly, especially when they sing, dance, and glow like this lot!  Don’t expect to catch your breath though, for you are plunged straight into another number from Jason Manford who is sounding better than ever, and he then dives headfirst into a stand-up routine.  It’s not too long before he is joined on stage by our own panto tradition – Ben Nickless, and the friendship and bromance they formed last year is ignited once again to the delight of the entire audience.  I’m sure there is a script in there somewhere, but these two together are so natural, so authentic, that it feels entirely in the moment, fuelling audience giddiness even further, for you feel you are a part of this special thing.  Sounds cheesy I know, but what can I say, that’s how it was.  They give us all the usual things to shout out when they appear on stage, and after they have self mocked (Jason Manford poking fun that he is playing a boy called Jack in his 40’s, and Ben Nickless laughing that he is the same character as always, just with a different name – Silly Simon this year) they explain the simple plot line, and we’re off.

Myra Dubois enters as the giant's wife Myra Blunderbore and immediately hones in on the audience, taking audience participation in a panto to a whole new level!  This is a panto that cleverly balances the content for adults and children alike.  As it teases and teeters on the edge of the line of adult humour, the children simply delight in the atmosphere and the laughter they are surrounded by and in turn laugh at that!  I remember this feeling as a child myself.  It makes you feel safe and happy and a part of something special.

So, what is the Mancunian panto infused version of this story?  Well, Jack and Simon are brothers and live on a farm.  Jack wants to marry Princess Jill, meanwhile Jill is absorbed in showing the giant they won’t live in fear of him and so decides to put on a Royal Variety performance to bring joy to all.  Jack determines he will perform at the show and woo her that way.  In other news, Myra wants to put a feast on for her giant husband but doesn’t have enough food to satisfy him.  The giant is annoyed with Jill's attempts to live without fear and so captures her. 

Jack makes it his mission to rescue her but has no idea how.  They decide they need a rocket or a flying car or something but have no money.  There is nothing for it but to sell all the animals, who come out and protest with brilliantly topical signs full of puns and comedy.  As Jack takes his cow Pat (take a second with that one) to market to sell, Myra tries to trick him into selling all the animals to her for the feast.  The spirit of the beans appears though and sprinkles the beans with a little magic.  The beanstalk grows, and as Jack and Simon finally arrive in giant land to rescue Jill, they discover that this is 2023 and she doesn’t need a man to rescue her, she can rescue herself!  Everything works out with the happily ever afters and Jack and Jill have their wedding.  I think that’s about right, but with this panto, and the comedy moments and hilarity over taking everything, it may be slightly different on any given night!

Jason Manford was just born to be on stage!  A complete natural, and even when he is interrupted by giggles or heckles, he relishes in this and somehow makes things even better.  Funny, charismatic, natural, and a great rapport with his audience, no matter whether he is telling jokes, acting daft, or belting out some banging tunes, he is captivating, and I really hope this isn’t his last year in panto as it fits him like a glove.  There’s a charm in ‘what you see is what you get’ with his performance, and what you get is bloomin’ brilliant.  And that voice!  It just gets better and better!  Manford shows what a true all-round performer he is, and as one of the hardest working people in showbiz, he thoroughly deserves the love and admiration he received.  His opening stand-up routine had us crying with laughter in complete recognition of his observational humour, reminding everyone of his generation what it was like to be a kid in the summer holidays – “You’re either out, or you’re in!”  He knows how to connect completely with an audience and welcomes you into his world with generosity.    

Ben Nickless is Mr. Manchester Panto!  They should name a dressing room or something after him at the very least!  He is not only insanely talented with his comedy routines, singing, impersonations and natural charm and affability, but you can sense his genuine love for what he does by the bucketful.  His appearance on stage had a little touch of illusion and magic about it, setting the scene for an impressive evening.  His Manchester rap was not only witty and a crowd pleaser, but impressively mastered and delivered without a single beat, borough or breath being skipped.  To go from that, to impersonating Ed Sheeran, to being convincingly battered and bashed about by boxing gloves, baseball bats, and frying pans, then jumping up and engaging with children, singing a song, and goodness knows what else – I mean come on!  Talk about all round entertainer, and all of it with such modesty that makes him even more brilliant.  Long may Manchester’s love affair with Ben Nickless continue.  Our panto truly wouldn’t be the same without him.    

Myra Dubois brings a whole new feisty dynamic to our panto this year and delivers humour in such a dry and on point way, that you will wonder how we managed so long without her.  She has an insatiable ability to throw out quick comebacks and has the most fabulous costumes in the whole show.  An air of defiance sparkles around everything she says and does, and her engagement with the audience is just brilliant.  You have the vibe of never knowing quite what to expect, only that you know it will be fabulous.  She holds the stage as her own time and time again, then perfectly forms first a trio, then a quartet to provide us with some of the most rip roaring moments of the show.  Quick witted, she is able to play around with the script and have fun, engaging not only other cast members, but the audience alike.

West End superstar Emma Williams shines on stage and treats us to that liquid gold voice of hers.  She bounces off the other cast members with joy and really gets stuck into the panto routines, making us belly laugh with her antics, particularly in the “If I were not from the farm” routine.  My only complaint is that she was not in the show enough because she is a true talent.  This is echoed for Samara Casteallo, who we were thrilled to see retuning to our panto once again.  She is so full of energy, joy and sparkle that she genuinely lights up the stage with each appearance.

Jack And The Beanstalk has everything you’d want from a panto, and then some!  Unless you have visited an Opera House panto before, believe me, you have no idea what to expect!  And even if you have, I’ll be honest, you’ll still end up surprised, taken aback, and wowed, because they never fail to impress or amaze with the ingenuity, creativity and boundary pushing elements that make the theatre come alive in such a magical way.  A musical theatre theme from Joseph and his technicoloured doo dah coat runs throughout, with opportunity to join in, and then you are also dazzled with a twist on classics such as “I’ve got rhythm.”

You will be indulged with top notch stand-up comedy routines, wicked impersonations, audience participation, a mesmerising giant, a flying car, cast members dancing through the aisles, talking boobies, traditional panto routines with a twist, children given the opportunity to go on stage – even the big kids, the audience getting a soaking, a rave version of Old McDonald had a farm, glitterball magic, and they even make it snow!  Seriously, what is not to love?  You will smile till your face sticks like that and leave sighing a happy sigh of contentment.  The set is full of sparkle and glitter, from a farm to the giants lair, and the comedy even extends to the scenery, with some cracking named shops.  Keep an eye out for these as they will make you giggle.  A huge bed dominates during one scene, for Jack and Simon’s bedtime, and with this comedy duo, it is gloriously reminiscent of Morecombe and Wise, with gags galore and some oldies but goodies thrown in too.

The build up to the end of act one, as always with our Opera House panto, is something special to behold and no matter what your age, will fill you with a child like wonder and awe that I intend to keep hold of.  It is spectacular, and all the children (and some adults) spent the whole interval trying to figure out how it was done.  There is so much going on that every part of you is fit to burst with excitement at the spectacle on offer.  The second half sees the return of bringing children up onto the stage which always proves to be a beautifully funny moment as kids will be kids and there is no predicting what they will do or say at any given performance.  Both Jason and Ben talk to these young people with such respect, patience, and humour that you can feel the entire audience willing the children on.  Then of course, there is the old panto favourite “If I were not upon a……..”  This year, it is “If I were not from the farm,” and the comedy is brought to us by Manford, Nickless, Dubois and Williams, in an eye watering, side splitting, riotous routine.  The comic timing is spot on, and you can see the cast having as much of a giggle as us – even though I accept they are far more knackered by the end than we are!  It is so daft, so slapstick, so perfect.  And what about the giant?  Impressive!  Wish we could have seen a little more of him it was that spectacular, but always leave us wanting more I guess.      

Basically, if you haven’t already got your tickets – grab them now because Jack And The Beanstalk is one of those rare shows that really is for the whole family.  It ticks just about every box and its selling point is that it never takes itself too seriously.  Its ability to laugh at itself is a huge bonus to the show, allowing you to relax, feel involved, and for it to just be a really fun place of escapism and joy.  It does a superb job of balancing the best of panto with musical theatre, stand-up, and family variety, making it clear why audiences return year after year to the brilliant Crossroads Pantomimes.  And even though there were no acrobats, or circus style acts included this year, it didn’t need it.  Besides, it had dancing poultry!  I mean, seriously, where else can you find that and howl with delight at a giant hen wearing a glittery top hat?!  The glitz, glamour, the juggernaut of jokes, the illuminous ensemble, and the all star main cast, who can all headline their own solo shows, came together to give Manchester a night to remember.  So, whether you’re a French bean, runner bean, has bean or baked bean, just make sure you’ve been (or bean) to Jack And The Beanstalk this Christmas.  Seeing is beanleaving! 



Watch our "In Conversation with JASON MANFORD, BEN NICKLESS & MYRA DUBOIS discussing Jack and the Beanstalk" video

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