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Jack and the Beanstalk, The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

It’s back! Panto season has arrived once more, which means Johnny Wilkes has returned to The Regent Theatre, in Hanley, for the seasonal spectacle.

This year it’s Jack and the Beanstalk getting The Regent treatment – with Johnny playing Jack Trot, joined by Regent panto legend Kai Owens as his dad Farmer Trot, Hearsay’s Noel Sullivan as the baddie Fleshcreep, Michelle Andrews as Princess Jill and Rio Maye as The Spirit of the Beans.

At the opening night on Friday, December 15th Johnny was on great form – a natural entertainer, he knows his audience well and keeps the gags rolling, his singing is top notch, and he brings a warmth to the role that keeps all ages entertained.

As is to be expected, all of the cast are excellent – Kai Owens is brilliant – he’s funny, charismatic and delivers everything from a fast-paced ode to the city to the traditional tongue twister and a love song. Noel Sullivan is fantastic as Fleshcreep, hamming it up as the baddie while also throwing himself into the festive fun – and of course his voice is excellent.

Michelle Andrews as Princess Jill also has a fantastic voice, bringing out the gentle side of the story to offset the onstage shenanigans, while Rio Maye as The Spirit of the Beans delivers a welcome dose of panto magic.

No spoilers, of course, but this year’s Regent production does see a couple of updates to the tried and tested formula. There really is something for everyone, from neon-clad dancers to cute farmyard animals and plenty of loud bangs and flashes of light to make sure you’re paying attention!

Following the classic story of Jack and his trip to market that ends with a bag of magic beans, the story definitely takes a backseat to the onstage antics with comic sequences, singing and dancing hogging the limelight instead.

As is always the case with The Regent panto it’s a quality production. The dancers are exceptional, the singing is fantastic, and the scenery is incredible. Light reaches out from the stage and without giving too much away Jack’s trip to the giant’s castle is a truly memorable highlight.

It is genuinely laugh out loud funny at parts, while plenty of thought has clearly gone into the lyrics – ‘We Love this City’ for example – and dance routines. The jokes are often a little close to the bone at The Regent panto and this year, while there seemed to be a drop in innuendo, the show certainly had its moments.

A great night out for the family, the kids were howling with laughter throughout and loved every moment. The team behind the panto clearly give it their all and work incredibly hard to keep the audience involved from start to finish.

See Jack and the Beanstalk at The Regent Theatre, Hanley, from now until January 7th – for tickets book online.


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