Jack and the Beanstalk

SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

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Mary Brennan

three stars

IT’S big and it’s brash – the Armadillo stage is no place for low-key minimalism and when 3D specs are handed out, you know that Jack and the Beanstalk is pitching to be spectacular. So bring on the dancers: ten hot-hoofing adults – no wee weans in this mix – who boogie on down in a variety of eye-catching costumes. And bring on the prominently named attractions: Greg McHugh as Gary Trot and The Dolls as his Aunties. Where’s Jack? He’s further down the cast list, because even if it’s meant to be his story, it mostly isn’t – Jack (a dashing Llandyll Gove) and his Princess Apricot (a bright, appealing Rachel Flynn) don’t even get to be the happy-ever-after couple who traditionally round off the walk-down at the end. Like the story itself, they’re eclipsed by the over-riding comedy that has the Dolls and McHugh more or less doing their own thing – making the production closer to a variety show than a pantomime, and not an especially child-orientated one at that.

McHugh, referencing his role in Gary:Tank Commander, is actually spot on as the lovable eejit who wants to be a hero, but the Dolls - despite looking grotesquely brassy and acting Glesca’ rude’n’racy - don’t have the salty innuendo edge of a cross-dressing dame. But then tradition isn’t the name of the game here. Moo-Moo the Coo hardly gets a look in, the Giant becomes part of the lengthy 3D sequence, his fe-fi-fum threat replaced by a huge animatronic rat that McHugh trounces...So – big and brash. Strong singing impresses, as does John McLarnon’s elegantly villainous Fleshcreep, and it all looks expensive. But sadly it’s spectacularly lacking panto charm, a dazzle of magic and real heart.