castJack, magic

beans and a princess

LICHFIELD Garrick has built up a well-deserved reputation for providing one of the best family pantomimes or Christmas shows around the Midlands, particularly for younger family members. 

Writer Ian Adams as Dame Mary Trott, Graham Cole as Hemlock and Jo-Anne Stevens as Princess Jill and Dominic Griffin as Jack Trott.

Which is not to say they are children’s shows, far from it; just traditional stories told in the age-old traditional way with writer Ian Adams ensuring the odd risqué moment never strays over the line into vulgar.

He is a great believer that panto lines that are supposedly above the heads of children have a tendency to elicit awkward questions as to why adults are laughing. “If you can get a laugh from a clean joke, good.”

This is his 18th panto and 13th as dame, with the last 10 at the Garrick. “I did my first when I was 20, a sort of Wishee Washee character, the second one when I was 35, playing the prince, but that was the end of that, getting too old for it, then Ugly Sister at 40 and I have done it every year since and I have been writing for 11 or 12 years.

Jack and the Beanstalk was the first one I ever id at the Garrick so we have gone full circle. It is the traditional story with a few little twists in there, and a lot of music.

“There is a big beanstalk, well five actually. There is always five beans in the story so I always wondered what happened to the other four.

“There is the giant, with a twist, and the castle in the clouds, and the princess gets kidnapped, the golden harp and the golden goose, it’s all there.”

For the first time in 10 years Adams will have a new musical director after Adrian Jackson, the former Garrick artistic director and chief executive – and MD and conductor – left to take up the role of Chief Executive at The Grand in Wolverhampton but the transition has been seamless.

“It is all set in the Wild West . . . Midlands in the kingdom of Packington. We have a niceDominic cast, and of course Graham Cole (PC Tony Stamp in The Bill) is coming back – we had such a good time on Christmas Carol with him (he played Scrooge in 2012/13) and he is a baddy, which is different because he is a lovely man. 

The hero of Adam's traditional tale of giants, castles in clouds and dramatic rescues, Jack Trott

“There are 11 in the cast, but there will be a fair amount of doubling so it looks like we have a bigger cast but it also means they all get plenty to do, they are not stuck in the dressing room for 40 minutes. If they are off-stage they are changing. That is how I like it.

" There is not really a star, the show should be the star.”

So people can expect a traditional panto with the milking of the cow, custard pies and plenty of slapstick around a traditional story.

Taking the lead as Jack is Wolverhampton-born Dominic Adam Griffin, who went to school in Shifnall and whose parents still live in Telford, which means a novelty in the life of an actor, Christmas at home between matinees on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

Dominic, aged 22, passed through the Garrick on his way to Shanghai where he was appearing in Ultimate Broadway for five weeks before returning as Jack Trott, son of Adams’ Dame Trott who sells the family’s cow for five magic beans.

Dominic graduated from Arts Educational Schools in London last year and played Wishee Washee in Aladdin in Newbury last year.

Every panto needs a princess and in this case it is Princess Jill played by Jo-Anne Stevens who passed through the Garrick on her way to appearing in Saucy Jack andJo-Anne the Space Vixens at Upstairs at the Gatehouse on Highgate Hill as part of the Campden Fringe Festival. 

Jo-Anne, aged 23, was born and raised in Rotterdam, arriving in England five years ago, not that you would know it from her English accent.

She said: “I have heard such good things about the Lichfield Garrick Pantomime. The team is great and a lot of care goes into it, it has been very professional.”

Dutch-born Jo-Anne Stevens, living the dream of every little girl of being a princess . . . even if it is only for Christmas.

She is looking forward to the show, her first panto incidentally, with an added reason which is perhaps more of a little girl thing.

“For a girl to play a princess, I mean, it’s pretty awesome and we have just seen some of the costumes and they are really stunning.

“There are so many different roles you can audition for but just being a princess is one of the dreams.”

With one dream realized there is a whole world remaining with the role she would most like to play Lucille in Parade: The Musical by the much under-rated Jason Robert Brown.

Lucille was the young wife of Leo Franks, the Jewish manager of a pencil company in Atlanta Georgia who was wrongly convicted of rape and murder and when his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment was dragged from jail by a mob and lynched.

Dominic’s dream role is more conventional, the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera.

And if you can be a Princess in a magic kingdom or can climb a beanstalk to reach a castle in the clouds, the sky really is the limit, so why not?

Roger Clarke

Jack and the Beanstalk opens at Lichfield Garrick on Saturday, 5 December and runs to Sunday, 3 January.

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