It is FUN in capital letters, or as my friend Bev said: organised mayhem on stage. It is the perfect way to introduce children and even grown-ups to theatre magic, even though the jokes are sometimes well known and therefore well loved. It is an endearing story, made even more lovable by the sheer exhausting efforts of John Barrowman who owns the stage the minute he’s on it and eclipses most of his co-actors (with the exception of Ashley Grey as the marvellous Fairy Firefly and Pete Gallagher as the most brilliant bad guy ever to grace a stage). Princess Apricot doesn’t stand a chance (both in the acting as well as in the singing department she is clearly the weakest link in this production but she is improving nicely as the shows continue so I am more than happy to give her credit for working on her skills. her voice is still not very strong though, I am afraid), her father, King Crumble, has some clownish appearances (he is hard of hearing and misinterprets stuff in the most hilarious way) that would have been even more awesome hadn’t Barrowman already covered that basis with his own antics. And John even managesto reduce the Krankies to feeding him cues in some of the scenes – which is not a bad thing at times.
The story is set with the entrance of the Villain, Pete Gallagher at his best, named Fleshcreep – he is servant to Giant Blunderbore who lives in Cloudland and oppresses the people of Inverweedge: even though they have no more money, they must pay him tribute or hand over their cattle to survive. But Fairy Firefly, speaking in rhyme and forcing Fleshcreep into her rhythm as well, announces that the reign of the evil Giant will soon be over: a young hero named Jack Trott will kill him and save the people of Inverweedge from him. Fleshcreep highly doubts that (in rhyme).
Enter the townspeople and Princess Apricot. She has fallen in love but doesn’t say who the guy is to whom she’s lost her heart.
She doesn’t have to, though. Jack Trott comes on stage – with a jetpack he sails down from above, all in blue leather and with “Let me Entertain you!” (and all the women in the audience silently or not so silently screaming: yes, please) he strips off his leather pants (the hormone levels in the audience spike for the first, certainly not for the last time) and his leather gloves.
He’s also fallen in love – the princess is his chosen! There are the usual hint hint, nudge nudge jokes that have the audience in stitches and then everybody prepares for the fair. there the king declares that whoever is going to kill Giant Blunderbore will get the princess’ hand in marriage. Fleshcreep utters threats and everybody runs, only Jack stays – he confides in Jimmie Krankie that he’ll go and fight the Giant in order to win Apricot’s hand. But when he finally faces her, he is tonguetied and him trying to kiss her is interrupted by Fairy Firefly and ends in merciless ribbing from his brother wee Jimmie. The fair is in full swing when the Giant makes himself heard and everybody runs.
Jack prepares for his adventure – he comes back on stage – prepare yourselves – on HORSEBACK!!! He’s a beautiful golden gelding and very clever too – he even lies down to go to bed – helped by loads of treats from Jack of course, and then just lies there happily munching carrots and listening to a beautiful lullaby sung by John.
Meanwhile at the Trott’s farm money is tight. In order to survive they need to sell their only cow, Day-zee – a rapping cow! It is Jack’s duty to prepare the loved animal for selling (“If you leave me (C)now”) which is accompanied by much crying on both parts. But then Jack seems to be in luck: he meets a rich stranger who gives him gold for the cow – unfortunately it turns out to be Fleshcreep who abducts Day-zee and gives Jack beans instead of gold nuggets. When father Trott (Ian Krankie) finds that out, he throws the beans out. There follows a hilarious scene in the bedroom of the family starting with “behave yourselves – we don’t want to end up in the papers like last year” from Ian Krankie!
Fairy Firefly tries to help Jack on his quest and puts a spell on the beans – they grow fast and high till they reach Cloudland. In the meantime, Princess Apricot is abducted by Fleshcreed as an offering to the Giant. So the next morning Jack and Jimmie climb the huge beanstalk to face the Giant and save Apricot. (There’s a very funny yet moving exchange about Jeanette Krankie never again falling off a beanstalk – it’s been eight years since she had her aweful accident in another production of Jack and the Beanstalk).
Cloudland is introduced to us with a brillant rock number by Fleshcreep who “Can’t be tamed” – and it’s a brilliant number indeed – Gallagher knows his rock’n’roll! Btw: I asked Pete Gallagher (who is very approachable and sweet and patient with his fans!) where that song came from and he says it’s a Miley Cyrus pop song! they just “rocked it up” to fit his voice!! they – and he – does an incredible job – I really have to try very hard to see him in a musical as soon as possible!)
In Cloudland not only Jack and Jimmie, but also the Fairy and father Trott arrive on top of the beanstalk. now they have to disguise themselves to pass the Giant’s guards. Now this is the moment when the Trotts don hideous huge red wigs and kilts and create the plan to enter the castle posing as Scottish carol singers. and to rehearse for that, they and Fairy Firefly start “the twelve days of christmas”.
What now follows, can not be described. There are water pistols involved (and therefore water. lots of water – so much water the musicians were given umbrellas on the second day to protect themselves). And five rolls of toilet paper that inevitably find their way into the audience. Twice!! And “A fairy at the top of the Tree” – now guess who that fairy is in all twelve stanzas – and he even curtseys prettily. I swear, I will NEVER EVER be able to hear this carol without starting to giggle uncontrollably. Oh, and John wears tighty whities under the kilt who almost gleam when he rolls on the stage with Jeanette and Ian Krankie.
We have 3-D tricks coming now – and they get better every year. Finally they detect the princess in her cage in the kitchen of the cruel Giant and rescue her. Together with cow Day-zee they make it back to the beanstalk, while Fairy Firefly distracts Fleshcreep – they have a brilliant duett together.
And after they arrive back on their farm, Jack cuts the Beanstalk and the Giant hopefully falls to his death. a life and death fight with Fleshcreep ensues (I love the swordfights between John and Pete) and Fleshcreep loses. What are we going to do with him? Kill him!!! We can’t kill anyone in Pantomime…!
So Fleshcreep is sentenced to pamper Day-zee – a chore he doesn’t enjoy at all. Even less so as Princess Apricot and Jack Trott are soon going to be happily married and finally allowed to kiss!
Then the Krankies come back and instead of their usual number they’re celebrating the Scottish success at the 2012 Olympics. And the audience is happily participating. It’s a great end that gives the rest of the cast a chance to change dresses for the great finale – even though nobody wants it to end yet.
Now I already talked about the main cast – and I mentioned the beautiful gelding Charlie who hasn’t left anything behind in the two first shows 😉
So it is time to talk about the dancers: the boys are a sight for sore eyes – with James Titchener probably being John’s favorite in all his blond, sleek glory, and Jamal Crawford clearly the audiences first choice. Crawford is still so taken by his fame at the stagedoor, it’s very endearing – also he is an incredibly fit and physical guy, so it’s no surprise he has to sign autographs after each performance 😉 the whole group is very well trained and incredibly precise on stage and a joy to watch.
Also: I think the “broken” toe John suffered was because of Charlie but I could be wrong.
Also: At some point John is CRAWLING through the rows to follow his wayward toilet rolls. Believe me, he does wear underwear under that kilt of his. As some men can vouch for as he was hovering on the armrests of the seats over them.
Also: At the stagedoor – everybody is VERY friendly, VERY patient and VERY helpful. please do not take this for granted. They are not paid to be that way. it’s just who they are, so be grateful and respectful, please!
Also: if you are a young soldier, coming back from Afghanistan, and confiding to John that his music had helped him through this experience, prepare to be flirted at, patted and allowed to lift John up for a photo op!
Also: you are really lucky when a couple of schools are attending the matinee. We had so much fun, surrounded by kids from 5 to 10 at the most. we saw a very different show but it was incredibly funny to see how the puns were adjusted to the age group and how caring John told the kids they would be safe with Jack and the Gang. Bonus: of course the grown ups got the brunt of the water battle – and yes, we got wet!!! And we also were lucky enough to sit front row and had Fleshcreep shamelessly flirt with us. absolutely amazing!
I’m horrifically bad at this, but trying, I’m trying
Let me Entertain you (John, coming with a jetpack)
love song (by princess, no idea which)
I’m missing a song of Firefly – sorry, I can’t remember the title
I’m a believer (John and princess – plus she sings: I thought love was more or less a given thing – means the more I gave the MORE i get and I think the correct text is the more I gave the LESS I got…)
lullaby (Jack to horse charlie)
If you leave me COW (Jack to Day-zee the cow)
I’m on the edge (John, climbing the beanstalk)
I can’t be tamed (Pete Gallagher/Fleshcreep)
Gangnam style (very short, by Jeannette – hilarious and during the kids’ matinee all the wee ones got up and danced with her!!! John was overwhelmed!!!! loved it!!!)
Daddy I’m falling for the monster (Fairy Firefly and Fleshcreep – and god, it’s brilliant – awesome acting on both parts, great voices as well!!!)
pick pick picking on me (Jeanette)
Mull of Kintyre (Jack and father Trott)
The twelve days of christmas (which I will never ever be able to hear without breaking out in the giggles)
more after the next shows!