Jack and the Beanstalk:
**** 4 Stars
“Pantomime Magic Has Returned to the Brunton in Style”
2018 see’s a new writer and director in John Binnie taking the helm of East Lothians premier panto after last years lack lustre Beauty and the Beast, The Brunton had a lot to do to climb the peeks of Pantomime and this production of the classic fables sets them well on course for true panto magic.
The age-old tale of Jack (Ross Donachie) his mother, Dame Mither Mandy Moo Moo ( the utterly sublime Graham Crammond) and in this version of tale Jack’s sister Jilly ( Eilidh Weir) and their family cow Daisy (Hayley Keating and Sean O’Brien). The family have hit hard times and are struggling to pay the bills on the house and daisy’s pasture to the evil giant who sends his wife (Wendy Seager) to collect the rent. Added to the mix is Prince Nice Labels ( Ewan Peatrie) a fashion diva who is willing to give up the labels for the love of Jilly. The plot is set for a big adventure of good verses evil and everyone looking for their happy ever afters.
Binnie has added a few unique touches to the story removing “Fleshcreep” as the baddie and installing the wonderful Wendy Seager as the Giant, Giants wife and other characters, she has a big voice and big talent and gives a performance that allows the audience to boo easily. Her “Gold Finger” is a special moment in the show. This production is truly the Dames Show and Graham Crammond makes his return to the Brunton with a bang and a flawless performance that generates laughter both from his performance and array of costumes. Ross Donachie’s Jack is a charming and thoughtful take on the character and shows real acting quality although his vocal prowess isn’t as strong as it should be especially in his solo number you can’t help but be charmed by him. The best vocals of show must go to Ewan Petrie’s Prince, he brings a gorgeous hunky look and honey-soaked voice and charm that make him endlessly watchable.
Joining Binnie in the production team is Tommie Travers marking his fourth year as MD. He delivers with skill ensuring up to date pop numbers mingle easily older classic tracks like eye of the tiger. Travers greatest achievement is his underscoring, every scene comes to life with all the major characters having their own musical motif it’s a wonderful atmospheric achievement for the show. However, that said Travers would be served by the addition of a small band rather that just his keyboard and laptop driven backing tracks. Choreographer Stephanie MacAulay delivers well utilizing the space, the small principal cast and team of babes drawn from the community.
Costume and set design by Robin Mitchell and the students of Queen Margaret University really ensures the Brunton brings tradition back to their panto and all costumes are fabulous although the Dame’s final costume looks half-finished and not the knock your eye out epic scale that a good Dame should get for their finale. Mitchell’s Sets show the theatre to its very best especially under Laura Hawkins Lighting design and a quality sound design from Cameron McFarlane ensuring all the boxes production wise are delivered in style.
This is a marked improvement of a pantomime although Binnie’s references could do with updating, Cracker Jack hasn’t been on British TV since 1984 so it soars above the kids heads as does many of the more adult minded jokes. All in All, panto magic has returned to the Brunton in style, so gets those tickets and join Jack and the gang for the biggest of adventures.
The Brunton Theatre Presents “Jack and the Beanstalk”, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Run’s until Saturday 5th January 2019 Tickets from £14 go to www.thebrunton.co.uk/events