Roger Hall’s JACK and the BEANSTALK: The Pantomime

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

17/11/2007 - 23/12/2007

Production Details

Script by Roger Hall
Directed by Douglas Kamo
Music by Michael Nicholas Williams
Musical Director Stuart Walker

Lyrics, set & costume design by Paul Jenden

There’s laughter, tradition and fabulous festive fun at this year’s annual pantomime – Roger Hall’s Jack and the Beanstalk, which opens in CIRCA ONE on Saturday 17th November at 8pm.

Jack and his mother are in debt again! Their wicked landlady, Mrs Stilton and her side-kick Claud Back, are about to throw them out, and creditors are closing in. So, with nothing else left, Betsy, their beloved cow, must be sold. 

But Jack is in love (with the landlady’s daughter, the lovely Paris) and instead of getting money, Jack accepts beans from a stranger …. magic beans! And soon he is up among the clouds in a wondrous land where there is a Goose that lays golden eggs, and, Fee Fie Fo Fum  … a Giant with a dangerous appetite!

From the team that created Cinderella and Aladdin – now comes Jack & the Beanstalk with its exciting new land of musical and magical treats.

With Julian Wilson as Hilda Hardup the panto Dame, lots of topical jokes, Roger Hall’s legendary wit, foot-stomping country-and-western style music by Michael Williams accompanied by Sue Dunlop on guitar, and Paul Jenden’s amazingly creative costumes JACK and the BEANSTALK is a fun night out for everyone!

Starring a stunning line-up of funny, energetic and hugely talented actors:-

Jude Gibson, Paul Jenden, Jeff Kingsford-Brown, Danielle Mason, Jane Waddell, Michael Whalley, Julian Wilson

Performance times: 

17th NOVEMBER – 23rd DECEMBER 2007
Tuesday to Thursday 6.30pm
Friday & Saturday 8pm
Sunday 4pm

2nd  – 12th JANUARY 2008
Tuesday to Saturday 6.30pm
Sunday 4pm
Extra matinees: Wednesday 9th January – 2pm and Saturday 12th January – 11am.

$20 PREVIEW     –    Friday 16th November-  8pm

$20 SUNDAY  SPECIAL   –   Sunday 18th November – 4pm

$35   Adults;
$28    Students, Senior Citizens and Beneficiaries

$30   Groups (6+)
$18    Student Standby – from 1 hour before the show
$15   Children
$85    Family Ticket – 2 adults plus 2 children

Hilda Hardup - JULIAN WILSON 
Jack (her son) - MICHAEL WHALLEY 
Claud Back - PAUL JENDEN 
Betsy (the cow) - JUDE GIBSON 
Bob, the butcher - JEFF KINGSFORD-BROWN 
Mrs Stilton - JANE WADDELL 
Paris (her daughter) - DANIELLE MASON 
Immigration Officer - JEFF KINGSFORD-BROWN 
Gertie Grabber - JANE WADDELL   
Goosey (the goose) - JUDE GIBSON 

Michael Nicholas Williams, Sue Dunlop

Stage Manager - Eric Gardiner
Technical Operator - Wendy Clease
Sound Consultant - Ian Hull Brown, Golden Horn
Choreography - Paul Jenden
Sound - Ben Sinclair, Susan Wilson
Voice of Giant - Jeff Kingsford-Brown
Set Construction - Iain Cooper, John Hodgkins
Set Painting - Eileen McCann
Costume Construction - Paul Jenden
Publicity - Claire Treloar
Graphic Design - Rose Miller, Parlour
Photography - Stephen A'Court
House Manager - Suzanne Blackburn
Front of House - Linda Wilson 

Theatre , Music , Pantomime , Children’s , Family ,

Entertaining, engaging performances

Review by Lynn Freeman 29th Nov 2007

Christmas now equals panto at Circa. Jack and the Beanstalk is the third Roger Hall panto in a row, crammed full of topical jokes, contemporary references (from Trade Me to the Rugby World Cup). Paul Jenden’s wonderfully outrageous costumes, Michael Nicholas’ Williams sing-along songs and Dame Julian Wilson.

You know the story – lazy Jack, magic beans, nasty giant, golden egg laying goose.  There is love in this version, of course, being a panto after all – with the evil landlady’s lovely daughter Paris Stilton to be rescued from the giant’s clutches.

The cast fully enters into the spirit of panto, establishing an instant rapport with the audience – large and small.  Julian Wilson is a scarily fine Dame and Jane Waddell is a scarily evil landlady [Mrs Stilton] and Gertie Grabber.  But the real knock out is Jude Gibson, whose turns at Betsy the cow and Goosey are mini masterpieces of comic performance. 

Michael Whalley and Danielle Mason are charming as the love birds, and without any lines Paul Jenden is a scene stealer, especially as Claude Back the love-lorn repo man. Susan Wilson has an experienced hand at directing panto and gives her cast some great moves.

Staging challenges aside (how to portray a giant on stage without breaking the budget?) Jack and the Beanstalk, while entertaining and engagingly performed, is the least successful of the Hall trilogy. Cinderella and Aladdin are better, bigger stories while Jack’s tale feels like it needed a lot of padding.  And the balance of jokes for the kids and jokes for the adults wasn’t quite right, a bit too much for the grown ups, though the kids weren’t complaining.    
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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A convert to panto

Review by Helen Sims 28th Nov 2007

I have to declare from the start, I’m not a huge fan of pantomimes. They combine my dislike of musical theatre, children and audience interaction in a nightmarish fashion (although I have to admit to liking Troy immensely). I really disliked last year’s Aladdin and only managed to sit through 15 minutes of Cinderella the year before. I had groaned both in public and private about Jack and the Beanstalk, expecting another addition to what is becoming a painful yearly practice at Circa. However, I actually quite enjoyed this one – oh no I didn’t! Well yes, I did!

The script is better than in previous years – at some points current events are nailed and it is obvious it was being updated until the last moment, particularly with references to the political climate. The puns are not too painful and some jokes really come to pay off. Basically Jack had far more to appeal to adults than its predecessors, as well as maintaining the fun for kids, as evidenced by the charming little tyke continuously jumping up and down in front of me. In the hands of an incredibly skilled cast the two hours of song, dance and assorted mayhem zips along.

The first half of the play is set in “Kerryville”, with Jack and his mum Hilda Hardup trying to evade their landlady Mrs Stilton and her assistant Claud Back so as not to get evicted from their caravan in their beloved Blumsky Memorial Park. Bob the Butcher is also chasing late payment for sausages. Their only option is to sell Betsy the Cow, a beloved family pet. She is tricked into believing she is entering a cow beauty contest, and after being given a makeover by Paris Stilton, with who Jack is hopelessly in love, she is taken to market and sold to Bob for magic beans. It’s a basic struggle between the tartan clad rich versus the neon clad poor, with Jack, an aspiring poet the typical anti-hero.

The second half is a little more surreal, taking place after the beanstalk has been climbed into giant land. Jane Waddell as Gertie Grabber is reminiscent of a Rocky Horror Picture Show character as she fattens up her captives for serving to the giant, who is only seen as a huge pair of legs at the rear of the stage. She is utterly fabulous and ably assisted by Jeff Kingsford-Brown (also by far the best singer in the cast). Jude Gibson plays another animal role, transforming from Betsy to Goosey, the golden egg laying goose. I thought most of the comedy was generated from the performances of Waddell and Gibson. They really hammed it up and there was something enjoyable in seeing two such experienced actresses really immerse themselves in comical roles. Gibson’s “Mother Plucker Rap” as Goosey was a highlight for me and she makes a bizarrely attractive cow. Paul Jenden’s mime performance as Claud was also hilarious. All of the actors credibly fill their roles, although their singing ability varies.

The music and sound generated from the live musicians was excellent and I thought well composed to suit the show. It has a strong country and western theme to match the laid back, small town life of Kerrysville. Song lyrics were kept simple, and it was easy to start singing along to some of the repeated songs. I found myself humming the tune of one the next day. Costumes and set also suited the bold and bright tone of the play, both designed by the indefatigable Jenden.

Overall this was quite a bit of fun. I’d recommend fortifying yourself with a couple of glasses of wine before commencing the ‘pantomime whirl’ then just relaxing and allowing yourself to be taken on the ride.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.


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wacky humour carries the day

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 22nd Nov 2007

Roger Hall’s Jack and the Beanstalk is a laugh-a-minute show that had an elderly audience with a sprinkling of vociferous youngsters at the performance I attended thoroughly enjoying themselves as they all entered into the madcap spirit of a traditional pantomime.

Even though most of the jokes are aimed at the adults, there is enough broad comedy, slapstick and corny jokes, not to mention a familiar story set in Kerryville. This is a city which has a farmer’s market somewhere near Blumsky Memorial Park, with Bob the butcher there to buy Hilda and Jack Hardup’s cow Betsy. Winston Peters, Helen Clark, the World Cup debacle, the Ureweras, and Tennessee Williams are just a few of the topics that crop up from time to time with Winston and the World Cup getting most of the attention.

The hero Jack (Michael Whalley) is unusual in that he is a poet in the Sam Hunt mould who falls in love with the daughter of the evil landlady, Mrs. Stilton (Jane Waddell), whose name is – wait for it – Paris (Danielle Mason). Jack has not only a mother but also an aunt and both are played by Julian Wilson. Aunty Pam makes jams which she sells at the market when she is not off on some dubious New Age trip, but it is as Hilda that Wilson really shines.

He has clearly taken on, at a comparatively young age, the mantle of David Tinkham, a former master of damehood. His dames are not as butch as David Tinkham’s were, but they are just as funny and his adlibs particularly with youngsters are genuine and not pre-arranged. He is clearly enjoying himself and as a result the audience enjoys itself too.

Betsy the cow is predictably udderly fed up because she is no longer fed mooseli for breakfast, but with Jude Gibson playing Betsy – and a goose that lays golden eggs in the second act – hilarity overrides the puns. Jeff Kingsford Brown is the mad butcher and an immigration officer related to Frankenstein’s monster, while Paul Jenden is Mrs. Stilton’s side-kick as well as a harp which gets plucked by Hilda.

Costumes great (if ghastly colours), songs catchy and fun, scenically disappointing, but the wacky humour carries the day.   
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Fun and funny but not really awesome

Review by John Smythe 18th Nov 2007

A curvaceous but peeling and unappealing pink caravan sits centre stage, in – we discover – Kerryville’s ‘Blumsky Memorial Park’. "Don’t live in a village," the first of many jolly panto songs tells us, "nothing ever happens here." This is where "poor widow woman" Hilda Hardup (Julian Wilson, the consummate dame), also pink and curvaceous, and her wannabe poet – i.e. unemployed – son Jack (Michael Whalley, the perfect non-hero) live with their cow Betsy (Jude Gibson in you-beaut form) and crippling debt.

Hiding his unrequited love for Hilda under whatever he’s carting off at the time, is a sparkly-suited but mute repo-man, Claude Back (Paul Jenden as the bad sad clown). His ‘big cheese’ boss and the Hardup’s landlady Mrs Stilton (Jane Waddell, preening like a home-grown Cruella in burnt orange headdress) plays the capitalist villain.

Mrs Stilton’s daughter Paris (a deliciously air-headed Danielle Mason) swans about with her pet dog Mimi, spending Mummy’s money. Jack fancies her, of course, and the vice is versa despite his verses, Sam Hunt-style, except she knows their love cannot be: "He’s poor!" And so the classic ‘princess’-and-the-pauper panto scenario plays out.

A rosy-cheeked Jeff Kingsford-Brown completes the cast as Bob the (mad) butcher, also wanting his bills to be paid, and in the farmers’ market scene, where Betsy gets sold for (magic) beans, Wilson offers a wonderfully wafty cameo as Aunty Pam, Hilda’s New Age stall-holding sister.

In Act Two, above-the-clouds, Kingsford-Brown becomes the green giant’s Immigration Officer, where Gibson is the golden egg-laying Goosey, Waddell is Gertie Grabber the cook and Jenden is the Golden Harp – all wondrously surrealised.

While the fact that Paris, Jack and Hilda are all to be fattened up to feed the giant clearly gives them the moral right to destroy him, Roger Hall deftly avoids the rewarding of greed and the notion of getting something for nothing by allowing the Hardups just enough, in the end, to pay off their debts.

Integral to the show throughout are Michael Nicholas Williams on keyboards and Sue Dunlop on guitar, backing the splendid original songs (by Williams and Jenden) and punctuating a great deal of the wacky action, played out in a typical Jenden setting of hanging fabrics.

As befits the genre, Hall has done a great job of colloquialising the traditional folk tale and used every opportunity to slip in topical gags for the grown-ups. Director Sue Wilson gives life and shape to the whimsy, abetted by Jenden’s choreography, although the second performance (the first Sunday matinee) did run quite a bit longer than the expected 2 hours 10 minutes (including interval).

The whole cast is relaxed, engaging and charming but the show’s knowing tone is pitched more at the adults than their children or grand children. The youngsters who accompanied us thought it was fun and funny but I feel there is nothing really awesome – in the true sense of the word – in the experience for them.

The growing of the beanstalk, for example and the climbing of it could be more convincingly staged. And the giant himself, well set up with reverberating footsteps that make mere mortal bounce as they tremble, and with a resonant Scots voice – "Fe fi fo fum …" – is finally a bit of a physical fizzer just when he should be at his most scary. But this may be a conscious choice aimed at avoiding traumatising children. Do we need to protect them this way?  

These quibbles aside, this Jack and the Beanstalk delivers the pantomime goods in fine style.

Footnote:  I’m pleased to observe that most of the songs are sung in natural Kiwi voices. Only once does Jack go American, with ‘Gonna clarm the beanstark’ which, to my ear, is as weird as a Hamlet actor suddenly going all posh and phoney when he gets to a soliloquy. Am I alone in thinking this?


Jules November 19th, 2007

To be fair about the length of the show on Sunday - firstly it was a full house (what a shameless piece of self-promotion...) and it always takes a little longer to get everyone seated when it's full, secondly, the show went up slightly later because we were awaiting a bus-load of retirees from a home in Upper Hutt (we were warned they'd be late because they were finishing their scones), and despite all this we finished the show at around 6:15 (meant to start at 4:00) - which I only know because I spotted the clock on the way up to the dressing room as I was hoping to get to a movie at 6:30. Fussy, I know, but true... so I don't think we did too badly in trying to get everyone back out into the glorious sunshine.

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