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Happy Jack a family favourite for laughs.

Jack and the Beanstalk Event: Huddersfield Light Opera Company Venue: Lawrence Batley Theatre Review: Andrew Hirst PEOPLE often expect pantomimes just before Christmas or over the festive period and into the first few days of the New Year.

Huddersfield Light Opera Company looks at things a bit differently and doesn't start its run until January is well underway and this year its production of Jack and the Beanstalk started on Saturday and finishes this coming Saturday.

It's been a proven winner over the last 38 years, always putting plenty of 'bums on seats' - in fact last year on average 97% of the seats were sold.

It's become a family favourite and no matter what other shows people go off to see around this time of year they'll always come to this one.

There's probably many reasons for this. The 42 dancers are from the Strickland School of Dance who showcase their talents ranging from tap to ballet and they will bring lots of relatives and friends in for a start.

And then there's the backbone to the Hudders-field Light Opera Company panto productions - their own Little and Large double act in the form of Chris Brearley as the Dame with Neil Broadbent as Simple Simon.

There's no more natural performer than Neil. It's not just his lines but the facial mannerisms, a knowing look to the audience, the throwaway ad libs and the sheer energy and downright 'likeability' factor he puts into this that makes him outstanding. Chris isn't a small bloke so how he manages in his high heels without plummeting to the stage must take some practice.

The costume changes come thick and fast - each one more stomach-churning than the last with vibrant slapped on makeup to match. It's a role he relishes along with the usual healthy portion of double entendres he dishes out.

The panto is written by Chris and Paul Bennett and the joke count seems higher this year. Try these out for size.

Dame: "I bought this dress for a ridiculous figure."

Simon: "How true."

Dame: "I wanted something that went from 0-60 in five seconds and what did you buy me?" Simon: "Some bathroom scales." You get the picture.

It's set in the fictional village of Much Piddling. Titter ye not.

I once lived in a place called Wham View yet never saw George Michael or Andrew Ridgeley once.

Music-wise they keep it mainstream from an Abba mash-up to Queen and finishing off with Happy. Jack's played with confi-dence by Zoe Clarkson and his belle Dream-a-day Jill is 18-year-old Chloe Byrnes who looks to be a great talent for the future.

Fairy Normous played by Huddersfield Light Opera Company stalwart Helen Woodhead has a running junk food joke - so much so that by the end even the audience must feel overfaced.

Baddie Dom Moccia as Black Spider is probably more glittery than menacing but worth a boo or two - watch out for the spiders making an unexpected appearance.

There's a slapstick BakeOff routine that works well - although possibly could be cut down by a course - and go prepared for this is a long show.

The first half was the best part of 90 minutes and the second around 45 with a good 20 minute interval. We went to the 5.30pm show and left at 8.10pm.

So it's a good family value for money show, with laughs, music, dancing, an over-the-top dame and a natural funnyman in the lead knockabout role.

What more could you want in mid January? Jack and the Beanstalk continues its run at the LBT from Wednesday until Saturday, January 17, at 7.15pm with a Saturday matinee at 1.30pm.


Jack and the Beanstalk at the LBT a proven winner with, from left, Neil Broadbent as Simple Simon, Zoe Clarkson as Jack, |Chris Brearley as Dolly and, below, Chloe Byrnes as Dream-a-Day Jill
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jan 12, 2015
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