Next year will see Clive Webb and Danny Adams celebrate their 10th consecutive pantomime at Newcastle Theatre Royal.
The first few years saw them joined by a celebrity co-star on the posters, until the producers realised it was in fact the father-and-son team who were drawing in the record-breaking crowds, year after year.
Of course the high production values - which always include a collection of ‘wow’ moments - are a big pull too (and another reason to help justify the ticket price), but at the end of the day, a flying carpet is no use unless you have somebody at the controls who is worth watching. Of course there is no flying carpet involved in the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, which is the tale being told this year, although there is something airborne to look out for, but I can say no more about that.
With spoiler alerts in mind, I can also say no more about the 3D section of the show, which invites the audience to slap on their glasses and take a walk through the Giant’s Castle... and then take a trip on what I can only assume is some sort of wormhole masquerading as a beanstalk chute.
My six-year-old son can certainly say no more about that bit, given that he spent 99% of the sequence holding his glasses and burying his head into my neck. Fred and a succession of 3D baddies and nasties apparently do not mix. Maybe a blindfold will be in order next time. He was in the minority though. The giant’s share of the crowd were screaming in excitable waves befitting a roller coaster.
Again though, this element - impressive though it was - would be nothing if it didn’t come as part of a much bigger package which surely starts rubbing in the panto polish for the following year’s offering while the current crop of confetti is still being swept up.
Once again written and directed by Wallsend-bred Michael Harrison - “the man who brought us here and made all this happen”, says Danny - the tale of the young boy who sells his cow for a bag of beans and scales the resulting beanstalk to secure fame and fortune and the end of the giant, has been punctuated for pantomime purposes by a selection of Clive and Danny’s greatest comedy hits.
Sporting set pieces a plenty, the pair had the crowd had the crowd at Danny’s first ‘Aaaaaayyyyyyy’ and the return of the 12 Days of Christmas - this time with a Geordie marinade - and all its choreographed chaos had people on their feet.
There was also audience surveillance tomfoolery, which went down like a lead-coated bag of hammers with one picked-on crowd member (to the delight of the rest of us, obviously); cream cake making (complete with a stage-protecting ground sheet of course); and an air horn performance, featuring the lovely Daisy, five, from the stalls, who perfectly played Danny at his own ‘Acciddduuurrrrnt’ game.
Throughout all of this, the supporting cast, including panto regulars Chris Hayward as the ever-resplendent Dame Rita Trot; the dastardly Steve Arnott as the booworthy Fleshcreep; Danny’s brother Mick Potts as the resident idiot; and whoever combined their efforts to bring Moo Moo the Coo Coo to life, put in great turns too.
As they all took their bows following the happily ever after bit, it struck me that Danny, Clive and the rest of the Theatre Royal’s resident pantomime family are like the story’s bag of magic beans. Every year they come together and grow something magical and massively entertaining.
And even though the 3D was too much for my little companion, he still badgered me all the way home to make sure we get our tickets for next year’s telling of Snow White, which pretty much says it all.
Jack and the Beanstalk at Newcastle Theatre Royal runs until January 18. Call 08448 11 21 21 for tickets or visit www.theatreroyal.co.uk