STAGE REVIEW IT IS unusual to see a ventriloquist’s dummy singing without its controlling hand but that was just one of many hilarious surprises Jack and the Beanstalk Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre had to offer.
Talented ventriloquist Paul Zerdin — and dummy, Sam — had the audience in fits of laughter with his performance as the hapless Simple Simon, son of Jeffrey Holland’s entertaining Dame Trot.
Lee Mead gave a pitch perfect performance as Jack, the hero of the story. Dashing, loveable and with a great sense of comic timing, he soon had the audience on side.
His rapport with Julian Clary, as the Spirit of the Beans, resulted in many a chuckle and unique performances of Any Dream Will Do and My Heart Will Go On.
"Any song but this one will do," quipped Julian, as Any Dream Will Do was struck up for the second time, complete with candle-wielding chorus and arm-waving audience.
Julian’s effortless wit and improvisational skill make him a top pantomime performer, and Nigel Havers’s villainous Fleshcreep gave him a worthy opponent in their battles of wit.
Asking the audience to don 3D glasses in act two was a risk, because 3D effects are so often a disappointment outside of a cinema, but children and adults alike were screaming as frogs, spiders and mythical monsters leapt out from the stage to terrorise them in the giant’s lair.
There were strong performances, too, from Robyn Mellor as Princess Apricot, Ian Gledhill as King Crumble and Shireen Jordan as Lucy, the lady-in-waiting.
With a dazzling cast, colourful set and glitzy costumes, Jack was one of the season’s best pantomimes.
Jack and the Beanstalk is being performed by Qdos Entertainment at the Mayflower Theatre until Saturday, January 19.