Rapid fire jokes and non-stop action in Jack and the Beanstalk at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Stephen Beckett as Fleshcreep, Tony Christie as The King, and Alexandra Waite-Roberts as Princess Ka

Stephen Beckett as Fleshcreep, Tony Christie as The King, and Alexandra Waite-Roberts as Princess Kate in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: RICHARD HUBERT-SMITH - Credit: Archant

Asked for her favourite part of the pantomime, one of the children invited up onto the stage got a laugh from the audience when she said: “The beginning”.

Jack and the Beanstalk, this year’s show at Cambridge Arts Theatre set in the village of Amarillo, opens vibrantly.

Full of panache, Stephen Beckett as the baddie Fleshcreep gets his hisses from the start. Every year, the well-annunciated baddie will hold up his head, strike a pose and claim that he is “classically trained”.

This year, he proves it by giving us some lines from Hamlet - and he truly would make a wonderful Dane.

There is a flowing momentum to this fast-paced show.

The sneers are followed straight away by cheers as the curtain rises on energetic dancing to What a Feeling on a colourful set.

The panto then unfolds with rapid fire jokes and non-stop action.

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Matt Crosby is the consumate dame. He nearly consumed in one mouthful a young man called Zac sitting in the second row.

In an inspired range of costumes, Dame Trott flashes her eyelashes, shows her bloomers and nearly brought the house down in the slapstick scene with her son, Simon, played by Robert Rees.

It’s not easy to put surprises into a piece where the audience already knows the actors are going to slip and slide and fall over but they actually managed to make the crowd gasp.

Of course, pantomime is basically a love story. Here Princess Kate (Alexandra Waite-Roberts) and Jack (Holly Easterbrook) play the parts as real characters and both have fine singing voices so that each number is a virtuoso piece.

When Daisy the Cow is sold and Crosby sings We’ll Meet Again, it was actually quite moo-ving.

This is the fourth panto for the Arts written by Crosby with Al Morley, whose day job is the theatre’s commercial director.

Liza Goddard as Fairy Beansprout and Tony Christie as the King are the big names but even the small parts are big. I loved Fairy Spinach (Tamsin January) Fairy Ratatouille (Charlotte Blenkinsop) and Fairy Sweetcorn (Tiffany Wells) as character roles and the babes had a lot to do.

A delightful, family show, which is a joy from start to finish. At Cambridge Arts Theatre until Sunday, January 7.