THE fact that the sub-title of this version of Jack and the Beanstalk is These Shoots Are Made For Walking is indicative of the elasticity of plot and highly flexible interpretation of this old Yuletide warhorse.
Logic isn’t top of the agenda, but fans of the now well-established annual Everyman rock ’n’ roll panto, which for the second year running has slid downhill (but not in quality) to the Liverpool Playhouse during the former’s rebuilding, won’t be disappointed.
The highly energetic cast are equally talented at acting, singing, dancing and grabbing the nearest instrument and give 200%.
You wonder why TV is filled up with gormless, wannabe no-hopers when the real talent is already out there.
There were problems, though. My companion who has well edged into the post-teen demographic kept telling me “I can’t understand what’s going on”, while laughing at the sillier jokes.
He fretted about “irrelevant songs being dropped in”.
Well, yes, that’s rock and roll panto for you, with the genre stretched to include Let Me Entertain You and Jumping Jack Flash (both terrific), Hit the Road Jack (worth going for in itself), but oddly not These Boots (or rather Shoots) Are Made For Walking.
The only actual ballad was the opening number There Was A Boy, beautifully sung by Aretha Ayeh, high up on a swing, as Songbird Alana.
Everyman R’n’R panto veteran Adam Keast, as Ernie the milkman, effortlessly dominates the stage with his cheeky chappie banter.
He seems to be morphing into Merseyside’s own Dudley Moore while also doing an impression of the much-loved Liverpool hairdresser Herbert Howe. This didn’t mitigate against an excellent double act with Francis Tucker’s dame.
With such a skilled set of all-rounders it’s almost churlish to pick anyone out, but Toby Lord was an effective lead as Jack. Griffin Stevens as the Cad and Marianne Benedict (the latter in dual good fairy/bad fairy roles) had great fun in verbal duelling over who had the most villainous panto laugh.
I loved Carla Freeman’s Wonder Woman and it was a credit to writers Sarah A Nixon and Mark Chatterton that their script was funny and punny enough without being over-loaded with witless TV references.
You certainly get your money’s worth, to the extent that the show is a tad too long. But that’s the only criticism with a panto that’s streets ahead of its rivals.
It seems also to fit very neatly into the Playhouse’s olde worlde auditorium and it will be a shame when it migrates back up hill to the new Everyman in future years.
Spoiler alert: if don’t want to be squirted with water by the cast, keep your mac hidden as this just increases their attention with the super soakers.