Does throwing peas at a giant sound like something your kids would like? Then they'll love Jack and the Beanstalk, an English panto playing at Federal Way's Centerstage Theater through Sunday Dec. 21. The panto is a British theatric hoilday tradition in which a fairy tale is told as a comedy, complete with gender role reversals, jokes that play off current events and parodies of popular songs. This show, recommended for ages 4 and up, includes tons of audience participation — including, yes, throwing peas at the giants.
Jack and the Beanstalk is a fun twist on the traditional tale, narrated by Brynne Geiszler as the Vegetable Fairy, Fairy Sugarsnap. Geiszler adds her gorgeous voice to the many musical numbers, which are parodies of songs such as Katy Perry’s "Roar." Live musicians are visible to the audience and add to the music. The production abounds with silly, groan-worthy jokes, which often play on local communities, politicians and musical groups. Many of the gags went “over” my kids’ heads, but gave the grown-ups in the audience a good laugh. Trivia buffs will enjoy recognizing song lyrics in the dialogue.
In the panto tradition, the main male comic acts as the Dame. In this production Dame Trot is hilariously played by actor Alan Bryce, garbed in gaudy makeup and a wig, who kept the audience in stitches during the performance we saw by poking fun at one of the dads in the audience. Another panto tradition is that the male hero is played by a girl who shows “lots of leg.” Anna Marie Clausen fits the bill, playing Jack in hot pants with a fabulous singing voice.
In between acts, actors host a short sing-along in which some children are selected to come onto the stage and help. The giant family, who show up in the second act, are huge (but not scary) puppets that almost reach the ceiling, operated by ensemble members.
The audience participation is one of the best parts of the show. Kids love the opportunity to yell “boo” at the villain, clap for Fairy Sugarsnap, catch candy thrown by the actors, and, of course, throw big, stuffed “peas” at the giants.
Parents should know
The theater recommends this show for ages 4 and up. The only caution for parents is that the first act is rather long, which might be hard for little ones to sit through. Otherwise, this is a fun show for the whole family.
- Bottled water, coffee, and small snacks are available for sale in the lobby.
- There is open seating, so you might want to arrive early.
- Tip for the men: Don’t sit too close to the front if you want to avoid catching Dame Trot’s eye and becoming part of the show!
- The actors come out to the lobby for pictures and autographs after the show, so have your camera ready.
If you go ...
When: Jack and the Beanstalk plays at Centerstage Theater through Dec. 23
Where: 3200 S.W. Dash Point Road in Federal Way.
Prices: Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for seniors, military and students, and $10 for kids under age 18.
Directions tip: The theater is located in a wooded area. After leaving the main road, you will drive down a long, curving road. As the box office told me, “You will think you are lost, but you’re not!” They also recommend, if using GPS, entering the whole street name and not abbreviating “point” or “road.” That being said, I had no trouble finding the theater.