REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre (Tuesday, December 12)

HOT on the heels of last year’s runaway success of Aladdin – Wolverhampton Grand Theatre has entered pantoland once again with a delightful take on Jack and the Beanstalk, writes Dan Sharp.

With many of the cast of last Christmas’ smash returning, it was going to take a lot to try and better what I thought was one of the best pantomimes I have ever seen.

The biggest change this year was the swapping of one talent show finalist with another as X-Factor’s Joe McElderry made way for Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates who took on the titular role, proving himself a good fit and a likeable lead.

His great singing voice made him stand out, but he was often overshadowed in the acting department by the powerful talent of his cast mates.

Another newbie this year was The Bill’s Graham Cole who received boos as big as the others’ cheers as baddie Fleshcreep – a sure sign of a job well done for the villain of the piece.

Loose Woman and Emmerdale favourite Lisa Riley returned, but as Mother Nature this time around to add the glitz and sparkle to the stage, as did one of the best dames in the business Ian Adams (Dame Trot) whose line “It might be rubbish, but it’s British!” took a light-hearted swipe at the lovable productions.

But the heart of the show – as it was in Aladdin – were the performances of Adam C Booth as comic-relief Simple Simon, who once again is the key to getting the kids involved, and our very own Black Country wench Doreen Tipton, who gets the biggest laughs from the adults.

Quarry Bank writer David Tristram’s hilarious creation – played to perfection as ever by Gill Jordan – has got to be a regular panto fixture in Wolverhampton, with her downtrodden, underwhelmed act working so well against the over-the-top and in your face performances from her colleagues.

Comical highlights include the panto’s own version of the 12 Days of Christmas, complete with toilet rolls, pork scratchings and a water pistol, and the singing of Brian Adams’ classic Everything I Do, which allows Gates – as he serenades Jill (Sarah Vaughan) – to show his funny side while he is constantly interrupted by Booth.

There are many similarities to last year – not just within the cast – and although I personally preferred Aladdin, there is still so much to entertain the family. The Grand could once again have another smash hit on their hands – 4 out of 5.

Tickets for the show, which runs at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until January 14, can be bought online at or by calling the box office on 01902 429212.