Naughty or Nice, Boo or Cheer!
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
There isn’t much difference between the “naughty” and the “nice” versions of Jack – A Beanstalk Panto at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre. In fact, I saw them both in the same day and they completely blend together in my mind. The main difference is the number of penis jokes and the giant dildo in the naughty panto.
I took my three-year-old granddaughter to the opening matinee of nice panto and she loved the colourful costumes and the excellent singing and dancing. She thoroughly enjoyed the hit parade of songs. The plot wasn’t of much interest to her, but any child older than three will probably enjoy the story, too. And be warned, there are bits of naughty innuendo in the nice version, but they go whoosh right over the kids’ heads.
I took my husband back for the evening opening performance of the naughty version, and there were plenty of laugh-out-loud jokes to keep us entertained, and many of those laughs weren’t even for naughty jokes!
The story begins in a Port Hope coffee shop called Beanies, which is owned by Pearson Adams. You might not catch the significance if you aren’t a regular in downtown Port Hope. Jack (who is/was Jacqueline) works at the coffee shop and she is stressed and frustrated by her very mean, money-oriented boss Pearson. To save a cow from the butcher shop, she makes a trade for magic beans, and sure enough, a big beanstalk springs up. Jack climbs it and finds herself in a giant’s castle in the sky, with a frightening Giant who looks a lot like her nasty old boss. Sure enough, the Giant has a hen that lays golden eggs, a magic harp who is stunning and sings, and a magic wand. The rest is storybook history.
This production features a very strong cast. Zoe O’Connor is Jack, with the perfect voice for belting the rock and pop tunes, and lots of energy for this lively show. Paul Constable doubles as Pearson the nasty boss and the Giant with big boots. He yells out “Fee, fi, fo, fid, I smell the blood of a Canadian kid,” which should terrify the children, but instead makes them laugh more. If Constable looks very familiar to you, it’s not because he’s been on the Capitol’s stage before. You will probably recognize him as the guy in the Canadian Tire commercials.
Madison Hayes-Crook is the magic hen who lays the golden egg, and makes a great effort to do so. Giant sings “Lay, Lady, Lay” to encourage her to produce the golden egg. Hen also sings a beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, but does a chicken cluck at the end of each line.
The audience will know Christy Bruce from past pantos. She shows her improv talent, dishing out responses to comments from the audience. As the Giant’s housekeeper, she is also tasked with the chicken’s song and dance as they sing the popular hits of each decade moving back in history. Both the kids and the adults made things difficult for her by calling for more chicken action.
Steve Ross is both a regular at the coffee shop and the Giant’s harp. Ross as Harp is a drag queen, in a fabulous sequinned gown with a shawl over top that looks like a harp. She puts Giant to sleep by singing the Everly Brothers’ “All I have to do is Dream”.
The show includes a history lesson in pop music through the decades: From songs like “Single Ladies” representing the 2000s, then they worked they worked their way back to “The Macarena”, “I Love Rock & Roll”, “Staying Alive”, “RESPECT”, “Rock Around the Clock”, to the World War I tune “Over There” from 1917, and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” all the way back to 1908. There were dance moves throughout this lengthy medley of tunes, and what is most amazing, the kids at the Nice panto enjoyed it as much as the senior folk at the Naughty panto.
Of course, there is also the requisite booing of the villain. Constable, as both Pearson and Giant egged the audience on, asking for louder boos as he made his nefarious plans. There is also plenty of cheering when things go right for the rest of the characters.
Credit goes to writer and director Rebecca Northan for a clever show. Northan, herself a performer as well, knows how to reach an audience and give them a tickle.
Make it a Nice day out and take the kids or grandkids to this show, or be a little bit Naughty and head out for an evening of off-colour jokes. You’ll be laughing either way.
Jack – A Beanstalk Panto continues at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope until December 23, 2023. Tickets are available at the box office by calling 905-885-1071 or visiting https://capitoltheatre.com/
Photo: Christy Bruce (Giant’s housekeeper), Madison Hayes-Crook (Hen that lays the golden egg), Zoë O’Connor (Jack), Paul Constable (The Giant), Steve Ross (The Harp) and Robbie Fenton (The Rabbit). Photo by Sam Moffatt.
Jack – A Beanstalk Panto
Written and Directed by Rebecca Northan
Musical Direction by Chris Barillaro
Choreography by Hollywood Jade
Performed by Christie Bruce, Paul Constable, Madison Hayes-Crook, Robbie Fenton, Clea McCaffrey, Zoe O’Connor, Hal Wesley Rogers, Steve Ross.
Capitol Theatre, 20 Queen St., Port Hope
November 24 to December 23, 2023
Reviewed by Mary Alderson