THE spectacle was put back in spectacular this week when The Grove launched its giant of a panto with one of the most impressive baddies seen on stage for a long time.
Children and adults alike gasped in wonder when the awesome ogre with a taste for human blood roared onto the stage, his eyes aglow and his booming voice striking terror into everyone under the age of 90.
Jack & The Beanstalk is a good, old fashioned family panto starring a monstrous baddie – all 20ft of him – a deliciously dotty dame from veteran TV and stage star Malcolm Lord – and wonderful knockabout comedy from Carl Johns in the role of the hero’s daft brother, Simple Simon.
Lord and Johns expertly led the company through a dazzling show that featured young performers from the town’s Anne Gale School of Dance, an exciting sword fight between our hero, Jack (the handsome Toby Lord) and the giant’s number two, Fleshcreep (EastEnders’ hardman Don Gilet), and one of the sexiest leading ladies ever to put on a princess costume. And to top it all, Postman Pat dropped in every now and then to deliver the mail. This was a show for the whole family.
And there was no doubting it scored a big hit with families, young and old on opening night. They were clapping along within seconds of the curtain going up and they refused to allow the cast to go home at the end.
Jack & The Beanstalk isn’t as popular as some pantomimes and there’s no logical reason for it. The lead is a rather naïve but well meaning boy who, in order to get the girl and help his family out of financial difficulties, risks his life to do battle with a fearsome giant that lives in a magic kingdom at the top of a beanstalk.
It’s a show full of awful jokes, lots of audience participation and laughter. I can’t think of a better way to start the Christmas season. It was great to see the management restore the traditional custom of throwing sweeties out to the audience (with Dame Trott using a catapult to ensure they made it right to the back). It was ‘Ealth and Safety gone mad when, some years ago, it was banned from many shows for being potentially dangerous.
The big names hired to put bums on seats hardly seemed necessary. Former Dunstablian Don Gilet hammed it up with an over-the-top performance as Fleshcreep (which was ok. If you can’t play around in a panto when can you and he just loved getting booed) while Hollyoaks and EastEnders’ star Gemma Bissix, known for her lads’ mags photoshoots, gave the dads in the audience something to watch when she appeared as the princess.
But by far the biggest star of the show is the ogre, Giant Blunderbore, a monster of a character that stunned, then draws applause, when he stomps on stage. One of the most impressive creations I’ve seen.
Jack & The Beanstalk runs until January 2. Book your tickets now. And if you want to get ahead planning for Christmas 2012 the venue has already announced that it is staging Snow White from December 14, 2012 to January 6, 2013. and tickets (with special offers for early bookers) are also available from the box office 01582 602080 or online www.grovetheatre.co.uk