Jack and The Beanstalk – the MADC panto for this year – took us on a rollercoaster ride in its new take of the beloved tale. In this version, our flawed hero Jack is an overly happy-go-lucky lad (annoyingly so), who dreams of only one thing: to be a successful knight and win the heart of his fair maiden, Jill (get it?), the daughter of the bearded baddie, Lord Lagħqi. She believes her role in life is to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a villain. Will she change her mind?

With a cast that featured Michael Mangion as the Dame Lady Frakassat, Joe Depasquale as the environmentally destructive Lord Lagħqi and Malcolm Galea who takes on the roles of both writer and narrator, this year’s production had the potential to be a family favourite for this festive season as the cast sing and dance their way into everyone’s hearts with big musical numbers, big giants and even bigger Dame costumes.

With Malcolm Galea energetically leading the show with his staple comedy and magnetism, the audience was immediately gripped, and made to interact with the performance, which kept everyone on their toes. He led the actors and spectators on an adventure that could be unique to each collective audience.

This production touched on a lot of the current big discussions in 2018 in Malta

Michael Mangion as the Dame certainly stole the show, with big skirts, bold colours and even bigger panties (trust me, everyone’s seen them). Lady Frakassat is a woman who knows what she wants, a woman of passion and a woman of exquisite taste. Not so much a lady as a lady of the night, her only goal in life is money, and lots of it – possibly in the form of Lord Laqgħi, who stole her heart after a wonderful night of passion years before. She will get what she wants in the end, and she’s willing to go to great lengths to make it happen.

Matthew Ben Attard played our naïve and ill-fated protagonist Jack, a simple soul without a care in the world, and possibly the world’s worst fairy godmother. Attard brought a charming athleticism and physical comedy to the character which grew on you until you found yourself fiercely rooting for him to succeed.

This production touched on a lot of the current big discussions in 2018 in Malta, starting with overdevelopment, in the form of the bearded baddie, Lord Lagħqi, a despicable man who strikes up a deathly deal with the giants from above and just can’t bring himself to understand why anyone would want to be poor.

He keeps raising rent prices and terrori­sing the locals in the hope that they sell him their homes so he can build every square centimetre of the town with large concrete blocks with tiny, boxy apartments that he can sell for extortionate prices. Sound familiar?

The script also touched on this year’s European Capital of Culture, Valletta 2018, with various not-so-subtle digs and references to politicians’ wrong-doings, foreign accounts and business deals… really, no-one is safe. But, as is usual in panto tradition, all is to be taken with a pinch (or a handful) of salt.

The orchestra, under the direction of Ryan Paul Abela, provided the soundtrack for the night and is accompanied by some big voices. Rachael Tedesco Triccas’ jazzy crooning as the Magic Harp, Katherine Browns’ sing-song delight as the Fairy Fanfanny, and Audrey Scerri’s rock voice under the guise of the evil minion Skincrawl, were only some of the big voices for this year and give this production that little extra oomph, and that extra X Factor (will the judges agree?).

There was a lot of family fun to be had in this wonderful feel-good production that left the audience with a sense of festive cheer and that may or may not have had me humming a few songs from my youth for the following few nights.

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