THERE'S nothing like a good panto to put a smile on your face at Christmas and Derby Assembly Rooms hasn't let us down with this season's festive frolics.Jack and the Beanstalk sticks to the tried and tested formula that has made the venue's annual panto a Christmas must-see and it works - all the way to the sprinkling of snow that greets theatre-goers on their way home.The co writers/directors, father and son team Keith and Ben Simmons, have been the architects of the Derby Live/Paul Holman panto for a good few years now and have the mix just about right – plenty of slapstick fun, some (very) old jokes and not too much in the way of plot to slow it all down.Simmons and Simmons also took to the stage to do the comedy leg work for several pantos but for the last three have left that to Mike McClean, a more than safe pair of hands. McClean's cheeky northern humour has been the highlight of the recent pantos and his post-show routine with three children from the audience is worth the admission fee on its own. His ability to mine comedy gold from the yongsters means it's never worth going home early.He's joined this year by Don Maclean as a feisty Dame Trott and former EastEnder Cheryl Fergison as the Spirit of the Beans.Jack is played by Marcus Collins – a charmer with a good voice who is better than some might expect from someone with an X Factor CV.The musical numbers are less of an intrusion and more pleasing this year - ranging from Dame Trott's tongue-twisting curry house version of Nessun Dorma via Jack's rendition of Skyfall to a reinvention of Blurred Lines dedicated to Daisy The Cow.Some of the jokes fall a bit flat and some of the routines peter out but there are far more hits than misses.If the production flags, it's generally because Jack and the Beanstalk isn't the best panto in the repertoire and certainly less appealing than Cinderella or Peter pan.But there are plenty of gitzy costumes and a nice use of video projection to help cover over any plot cracks. It's seldom long before you are laughing again.Thoroughly enjoyable.Jack and the Beanstalk runs until January 5. Go to www.derbylive.co.uk or call 01332 255800 to book.
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