Best panto of the season?
Muddy reviews Wycombe Swan's Jack and the beanstalk, starring Simon Webbe, Ashleigh Butler and Chris Jarvis.
With yours truly still battling flu, Muddy staffer Sophie stepped in last minute to goggle at one of her childhood crushes in panto – Simon Webbe from Blue, resplendent in patchwork waistcoat and manly leather boots. Sophie is still smiling so I’m guessing it was worth it! Here’s her review.
Founded in 1992, Wycombe Swan is a bit rough around the edges compared to its shiny and modern neighbouring theatres, but with hundreds of shows under its belt and regular support from Qdos Entertainment, the world’s biggest pantomime producer, it is an oldie but a goodie.
Just as I remembered it, but with a few comical twists along the way. Jack Trot (Simon Webbe) sells the family’s beloved cow in exchange for some beans which Dame Trot (Nigel Ellacott in his 43rd year of panto!) disappointedly throws out the window. They wake up the next day to a huge beanstalk that reaches ‘Cloud Land’ where the evil giant is holding Jack’s love interest Princess Apricot (Ashleigh Butler) hostage. Along with his hapless brother Simple Simon (CBeebies‘ Chris Jarvis), the team embark on a mission to rescue princess and defeat the giant so they can all live happily ever after.
Simon Webbe didn’t disappoint – his boy band days definitely came in handy as he busted some serious moves and soulful end notes. Having grown up listening to his music, you can imagine my delight as he sang a classic Blue anthem and came into the audience to bestow kisses – my flailing arms must not have been obvious enough as he didn’t even look my way.
But it was Sully the dog who completely stole the show. You might have seen Ashleigh and her pooch on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012 where they thawed Simon Cowell’s icy heart with adorable routines. The act has not lost its lustre since then as the tricks last night were incredible, I was completely in awe at how Sully would jump on Ashleigh’s back, dance on her toes and bark on command. If panto is not your thing, it’s worth the visit just to see what this dog will do for a treat.
The sets and costumes
The Swan really splashed the cash this year as the set and costumes were particularly spectacular, plus we were given special 3D glasses for the second half in ‘Cloud Land – a first for me in the theatre, with hologram spiders making me swipe the air and the giant’s huge hand reaching out to grab the audience. Everyone loved it.
The acting was questionable at some points – that’s half the fun of these shows – and the high comedy definitely made up for it; a good balance between the ‘he’s behind you’ stuff for kids and innuendoes for adults.
I saw Peter Pan at Wycombe Swan in 2016 and was happy to find there was no repeat content last night. However, The 12 days of Christmas skit seems to be popular this year as both Aylesbury and Wycombe productions flog the ‘five toilet rolls’ into the audience and the cast has to fight to get it back. The kids were almost delirious with excitement by this point, and I left feeling very Christmassy. All rise for Simon Webbe and a great panto.
‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ performances until Sun 31 Dec, Wycombe Swan, St Mary St, High Wycombe HP11 2XE. wycombeswan.co.uk
Words: Sophie Hadjikyriacos