REVIEW: Jack and The Beanstalk at Birmingham Hippodrome

In what seems like one of the purest moments of escapism this year, the star-studded cast of Jack and The Beanstalk are bringing some much-needed laughter to Birmingham this festive season.

Every year we sit down to watch the Hippodrome panto, and every year we come away convinced they've raised the bar as high as it can go. We're sold on the fact they may as well not bother next year, because nothing will ever beat what came before. And then, twelve months later, the team behind the show prove that we were way off the mark!

In keeping with tradition, Jack and The Beanstalk arrives in Birmingham direct from the London Palladium. The story has been adapted, the jokes have been localised but the glitz, glamour and sheer scale of this show o=is phenomenal. To say the audience was overwhelmed is an understatement.

The atmosphere in the building tonight was electric - and for good reason. The audience were excited, the nuances you'd expect from the show were all in place and Birmingham was very much up for a great night out.

What was immediately evident was the sheer scale of this production. We constantly hear from the team at Crossroads Pantomimes that their shows are 'more like full scale West End musicals' and never has that statement been more true. The costumes are lavish, the set is spectacular and the production values are second-to-none which left the audience (specifically the younger generations) in awe at what was before them.

It sounds incredibly cliché to say this is the first experience many young people have of theatre, but it's also true and what was amazing to see was the sheer joy and awe of kids walking out of the theatre, grinning ear-to-ear.

Full to the brim (probably more than ever!) of double entendre's, the adults in the audience were laughing until they cried and their kids were looking bemused at the spectacle!

First thing's first, the sheer scale of the production is mind-blowing. It uses every inch of the Hippodrome stage - and a good chunk of the stalls - to create the magic. From beanstalks that rise from the carpet to the roof to a trio of animatronic giants, there really is no stone left unturned.

It does feel like more could be made of some areas - the giants in particular were breathtaking, but were brought on for a 30-second stint near the start of the show and never seen again. However, as always, the audience lap it up with thunderous applause. This is a multi-million pound show of epic proportion.

The Queen of Birmingham, Alison Hammond is back in her city, on stage at the first theatre she ever visited. The sound of the applause when she made her entrance was an eruption of pure joy, with over 1000 Brummies welcoming her home. However, Hammond definitely isn't just a name on the poster - her role in the show is integral and one she carries off so well. Flexing her skills as a dancer and proving she can effortlessly deliver the humour the show needs, I've never seen someone look as happy as Alison did to be on stage - a smile and a sentiment echoed by the assembled crowd.

Samantha Womack returns to Birmingham to play our evil villain and her performance was brilliant. Nailing 'panto baddy' with ease, her vocals were stunning and her characterisation impeccable.

Alongside Hammond and Womack was the man who tends to be cast in Hippodrome pantomime's before it's even been decided what the show will be - Matt Slack.  The adopted Brummie returns for his tenth consecutive year and the audience couldn't be happier.

I said it last year and I"ll say it again this year - Matt Slack is an EXCEPTIONAL comic talent. He oozes panto funnyman and, following his stint as the titular character in last year's show (the name of which makes more than one appearance in the dialogue this season!), he's back in a 'sidekick'-style role which suits him down to the ground. It's fair to say that as the years go on, Slack's stage-time has started to become a chance for him to flex his comedic skills rather than furthiering the plot, but that's EXACTLY what the audience want and he delivers it with ease. 

Alexanda O'Reilly plays Jack and comes fresh from a stint in the Palladium version of the show. Alex is the archetypal panto 'prince' who could have been born to play the role. His musical theatre credentials go before him and his talent is there for all to see. His rapport with the audience, coupled with his undeniable charm and charisma means those watching are on his side and willing him to succeed from the get go.

Doreen Tipton is saving face for the Black Country, bringing her own brand of 'energy' to proceedings! This year she takes on the role of Doreen the Cow and puts a smile on the faces of the audience with her deadpan delivery. However, moving away from the 'lazy cow' persona, this is a chance to hear the incredible vocals of our bovine contingent, with a cover of Whitney Houston a particular favourite!

What Jack and The Beanstalk really provides is two hours of pure escapism at a show that you won't be able to stop grinning at. The Hippodrome knows how to do world class panto and this is an exceptional case in point.

Jack and The Beanstalk runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday 28th January 2024. For more information, or to get your tickets, visit

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