Jack and the Beanstalk – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Sandra Callard, December 2022
The Christmas pantomime at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford has been a sensational night out for many years past. This show is no different in that it is led by the brilliant comedy of Billy Pearce, who seems to have not aged at all in a decade, and who sails through his theatrical performance with an ease and security that once again has the happy effect of driving the audience wild with affection, joy and in solid appreciation of his crazy gags. Some are slightly naughty but funny, and occasionally go over the young ones’ heads, but they are delivered with a knowing wink to the older members of the audience. Billy is at his usual brilliant best here, with a joke a minute and a face that could make a turkey titter.
Previous pantos, whatever the title, tended to feature a family, a pair of lovers who fight to be accepted and a definite storyline that the audience can easily follow. This year’s Jack and the Beanstalk varies from this tried and tested route, leaves the plot slightly lagging, and makes a beeline for laugh-out-loud comedy with an assortment of baddies and goodies, before introducing a clever performer who can walk easily on an ever heightening pile of wobbling steps, which is alarmingly good, but rather strange in the middle of a pantomime.
Anyway, Billy has some splendid support from Danny Miller, who plays his son, Jack Trot, the man who, although unseen, climbs the massive Beanstalk – a beanstalk which has very little to do with the production bar its name in the title. Whatever, the show has some brilliant characters who give their all to the big and bold production. The very glamorous Divina De Campo keeps up the fun with her drag superstar character, and her wonderfully high soprano and four-octave range belt out some terrific songs that produce a very worthy and lasting applause.
I love the animals that wander hap-hazardly across the stage. They are huge, and make their way in such a lifelike and highly amusing manner that I never notice if anyone is guiding them. Surely there must have been someone present, but if so they were invisible. They are the best stage animals I have ever come across and their makers deserve a well done pat on the back for their wonderful skills.
I have viewed many performances of pantomimes over the years, and the one at the Alhambra is always a cut above its competitors. This latest production is easily as good as any previous one, despite a lack of obvious storyline to follow. There is a slight feeling of ‘we’re trying something new this year’, which is a brave concept in panto, where familiarity is a key ingredient, but even pantomime traditionalists like me couldn’t fail to be thrilled.
The show was an obvious sell out, and the mixed age groups of the many theatre goers were a solid testament to the enduring appeal of the Christmas show. The Alhambra is known far and wide for its exceptionally good pantomime, and here, thankfully, is another one. What a way to get into the festive spirit.
‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at Bradford Alhambra runs until 22nd January 2023