Jack & the Beanstalk
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Theater review by Raven Snook
Many shows for kids preach diversity, community and acceptance, but the gleeful, glittery and gangly Jack & the Beanstalk embodies those qualities. This boisterous British panto is the brainchild of spouses Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz, better known for decidedly grown-up entertainments like their NC-17 take on Beauty and the Beast. Their first foray into family theater uses the familiar fairy tale as a framework for a cavalcade of wacky vignettes, with a multicultural cast of 22—including burlesque star Dirty Martini and a host of talented neighborhood kids—delivering songs, stand-up and shtick while battling the evil Giant (a massive Trumpian puppet by MacArthur genius Basil Twist).
Although it's a bit too long and frequently messy—quite literally, during a wonderful pie-in-the-face segment—Jack & the Beanstalk rarely droops, thanks to David Quinn's glorious costumes, plenty of audience interaction and a variety of exuberant performances. (Standouts include stage neophyte Hawthorn Albatross III as the Giant's stylish henchman and Michael Johnnie Lynch in a gender-bending turn as Jack's much-married mother.) If you’re a culture-loving lefty who has struggled to get into the holiday spirit this year, this inclusive and exuberant mayhem will leave you overjoyed and hopeful for the battles to come.
[Note: This is a review of Jack & the Beanstalk's 2017 premiere. The 2018 encore production features the same cast but has been tweaked with new effects and songs.]
Abrons Arts Center (Off Broadway). By Mat Fraser. Directed by Julie Atlas Muz. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 25mins. One intermission.