Review: Jack and the BeansTalk

by Lynn on December 25, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Royal Canadian Legion 1/42, 243 Coxwell Ave., Toronto, Ont.

Written and directed by Rob Torr

Choreographed by Stephanie Graham

Musical direction by Paul Moody

Percussion by Dave Patel

Lighting by Joe Pagnan

Set design/construction by Rob Torr and Joe Walker

Scenic artist, Eileen von Hampeln

Cast: Greg Campbell

William Fisher

Christopher Fulton

Tim Funnell

Cyrus Lane

Jamie McRoberts

Caulin Moore

Teresa Tucci

And the voice of Cynthia Dale

If you ask me, seeing Jack and the BeansTalk– A Merry Magical Pantomime is the best, most joyous way of ending a full year of theatre going.

Rob Torr writes and directs the show; guides us in the finer ways of booing the villain; tells us when we can use the upstairs washroom and when we can’t;  and leads us singing “O Canada” (it takes place at the Royal Canadian Legion so out of respect for where we are, we sing “O Canada”).

Stephanie Graham is Mr. Torr’s partner in art and life and she choreographs the show with energy and fun; runs the box office and when there is a prop malfunction or part of a costume comes off, Ms Graham can be seen scurrying up to the stage when the lights are down to retrieve the malfunctioning bit with no one the wiser.

This being a pantomime the story of Jack is not exactly as one expects the fairy tale to be. Jack is still a poor country boy and he loves his cow Daisy but he has to sell her to help his family. He’s supposed to get money for her but instead accepts five magic beans which are scattered when his mother realizes what he’s done. One of the beans grows a stalk so high it goes into the sky. Jack climbs it and sees a giant’s castle up there along with a hen that lays golden eggs, which Jack steals. The Giant (the voice of Cynthia Dale altered to be scary) is none too pleased at this and tries to get revenge.

That’s sort of straightforward. But there is also a villain who is referred to as “Flesh Creep” (Cyrus Lane) and booed whenever he appears. There is a woman named Dame Trott (Greg Campbell) who seems to have a change of wig and clothes whenever she appears and she appears a lot. We are also expected to say: What? What, Dame Trott What? What? (Wot? Wot? Dame Trott. Wot? Wot? You decide) whenever she appears. Dame Trott’s son Jack (Caulin Moore)  is a charmer and sweet. He always says, “Hello boys and girls” whenever he enters, and smiles broadly. His friend Jill (Teresa Tucci) is a confident lass who is never afraid of anything. There’s a confused Squire (nicely played by William Fisher) who tries to make things right. There are two lovely characters both named Ed who try and help but mainly are funny. (Tim Funnell as Ed #1 and Christopher Fulton as Ed #2). And finally there is The Fairy (Jamie McRoberts who is both quietly feisty and sweet ) who is trying to thwart The Villain and get her wings. I tell you it’s a show with laughs, musical sound effects (those beans do talk!), a gentle moral and raucous good fun.

You know how in a pantomime there is always danger behind characters and the audience yells, “He’s behind you!!!!” Writer/director Rob Torr doesn’t go for the obvious here—I love that.  There is still danger and the characters we are trying to warn are still deaf –“What? Where??? I can’t hear you” but it’s such silly good fun.

The cast is wonderful to a person. Caulin Moore as Jack is so charming, good-natured, with such a dazzling smile you want to know what toothpaste he uses. And he sings beautifully. Greg Campbell carries off the part of Dame Trott with galloping wide-eyed wonder. Double-entendres are flicked hither and yon and always land beautifully. Cyrus Lane revels in the part of The Villain. He smiles with devilish relish. (I don’t want to know what kind of toothpaste he uses). He entices the boos out of us—not too hard a job. His eyes flash and it’s almost charming. And with careful technological fiddling Cynthia Dale’s voice sounds like a huge, imposing giant.

It’s a show for families, children, adults, people who were children once upon a time, people who know or are part of families but might appear solo but are still included in the fun. It’s a show that makes you leave your decorum at the door and confidently boo the villain and cheer the good guys. And in its good-natured silliness it’s shoulder-shaking funny.

And take a careful look at the title Jack and the BeansTalk…Mr Torr being sly and impish.

Torrent Productions Present:

Began: Dec. 20, 2019.

Closes: Dec. 29, 2019.

Running Time: about 2 hours.

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