For their 14th annual Christmas panto, Derry/Londonderry's Millennium Forum has concocted something of a comic and musical cabaret.
Writer and producer David McLaughlin has tied the classic Jack and the Beanstalk narrative to a succession of popular tunes, situational sketches, topical humour and accidental (surely?) innuendos.
On paper, it could pan out as predictable, but on stage, it works tremendously well. Helga Wood’s designs are colourful and inventive, the ideal backdrop and accompaniment for costumed giant Blunderbore, costumed cow Daisy, and an energetic, interactive ensemble of dancers, singers, actors and comedians.
Above all, the cast elevate this production by consistently maintaining a warm-hearted, genially humorous and largely hyperactive tone.
The big production numbers do not disappoint. Orla Mullan's charmingly graceful Fairy Rose Petal raises the roof with "Skyfall"; Conor O’Kane’s Jack and Kathryn Rutherford’s Princess Jill delicately duet Duran Duran’s "Ordinary World"; and reliably pivotal Panto Dame William Caulfield enjoys a hilarious take on the "Scooby Doo" theme with Gerard McCabe’s Silly Billy and James Lecky's king.
Most inspired is the decision to give the giant a lieutenant: Keith Lynch's Flesh Creep. By sidestepping brooding intimidation for hammy comedy, Lynch creates a highly amusing, obstructive nuisance of a villain – the best thing in the show.
Verdict: Energy, charm and heart successfully combine for a highly enjoyable pantomime.
This article was originally published in The Stage in December 2014.