London

Christmas Pantomime In London: Jack And The Beanstalk

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of being introduced to a revered UK holiday tradition – the Christmas pantomime. Contrary to what I originally thought, these musical stage productions are not typically holiday themed. Instead, a Christmas pantomime takes a classic children’s story or fairy tale and then, using humor, completely turns it on its head. Slapstick comedy, gender-crossing actors, pop culture references, adult innuendos, and audience participation are all common themes in Christmas pantomime productions.

I had heard about this tradition via a friend back in the U.S. who highly recommended we see a Christmas pantomime in London, so when my new friend, Emma, asked if Lexie and I would like to join her to check one out, I jumped at the chance!

Christmas Pantomime In London: Jack And The Beanstalk

Christmas Pantomime In London: Jack And The Beanstalk

With an abundance of Christmas pantomimes in the London area, the hardest part was choosing which one to see! We settled on Jack And The Beanstalk at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith because of its central location for the both of us. As it happened, the week before we were set to see the show, Lexie’s English teacher surprised the class with a spontaneous field trip to the Lyric Theatre, so Lexie had the good fortune of seeing this show twice!

The Lyric is a small theater, conveniently located next to the Hammersmith tube stations. (I prefer smaller theaters as they tend to make shows feel more intimate!) There are three levels in the theater – the stalls, the circle, and the upper circle. Our seats were located in the last row of the upper circle. Even purchasing tickets two weeks in advance, the majority of seats were already sold out. Christmas pantomimes are popular – you need to act fast to get good seats on weekends!

Christmas Pantomime In London: Jack And The Beanstalk

Christmas Pantomime In London: Jack And The Beanstalk

Christmas Pantomime In London: Jack And The Beanstalk

As for the production itself, this was not your average Jack And The Beanstalk story. Unless, of course, the story you heard as a child included a girl named Jack, a cross-dressing mother, the villainous Mr. Fleshcreep whose worst sin is his comb over, and an army of dancing cockroaches. Then yeah, that’s the one we saw.

The basic story was the same – Jack’s mom needs money so Jack must sell the family cow at market, Jack is tricked into coming home with beans instead of money, beans sprout into a beanstalk, Jack climbs the beanstalk and finds a giant, when Jack comes down they take an ax to the stalk keeping the giant from coming after them. And that’s about where the similarities ended.

I loved this production’s take on the story, especially the addition of the character, Sprout, Jack’s energetic friend and sidekick. He kept us in stitches the full two hours! And then, of course, there’s Jack’s mom – a man with a penchant for leopard print home decor and Zumba dancers. Throw in a quest to save a pet cow and a budding romance between Jack and Jill (played by, you guessed it, a boy) and you’ve got yourself one heck of a show!

An integral part of Christmas pantomimes is their use of audience participation. At Jack And The Beanstalk, audience participation ranged from a ‘Sweet Caroline’ sing-a-long to pulling unsuspecting folks from the crowd to twerk with Jack’s mom. (Thank you Miley Cyrus for making this a thing.) This is when I was blessing my lucky stars we were in the upper circle instead of the front section of the stalls. Is there anything more fear-inducing than being spontaneously called up on stage? Nope, there’s not.

Christmas Pantomime In London: Jack And The Beanstalk

Christmas Pantomime In London: Jack And The Beanstalk

Designed as family entertainment, children and adults alike will enjoy these shows. My panto partner, Emma, and I both remarked how the humor reminded us of Shrek. Christmas pantomimes are meant for kids, clearly, but there are many hilarious innuendos that will fly right over their heads.

I enjoyed this experience so much that we are going to make it our own tradition to see a different pantomime every Christmas, at least until we move away. (Unless our next move is to Ireland or Canada where Christmas pantomimes are also a holiday tradition, we won’t be able to keep up this particular tradition after we move away!)

Jack And The Beanstalk will run through January 4th, but if tickets are already sold out, you can check out some other Christmas pantomimes in London here. Most run through the first week of the new year, so you’ve still got time to see one!

Lyric Theatre: Website
Address: King Street, Lyric Square, London W6 0QL

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    December 27, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    It was such a joy – my face ached from smiling and laughing so much, to the next day. Your photos capture the show perfectly.
    I think you may be being a little shyer about jumping on stage than you were on the day ;-)

  • Reply
    Alex Fahey
    December 27, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    I wish I’d known about this when I was living in England. When we move back, I’ll have to check it out!

  • Reply
    Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    December 27, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    I love panto’s! I’m still hoping we might still be able to snag tickets to a local one before it leaves. I love how they change the stories and to see what they come up with.

  • Reply
    Robert Wareham
    December 27, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    Isn’t the Lyric Hammersmith a great little theatre! I’ve never visited to see the pantomime but you should take a look at LAMDA. They’re a drama school based by Barons Court and they often put on plays and things there. Not only are the shows usually incredibly good but the tickets are completely free too! They put on about 8 shows a year, over two seasons, and I’m sure you can get all the info on their website.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 30, 2013 at 1:09 AM

      I will definitely check it out! I can’t believe they offer tickets for FREE! Barons Court is only a handful of tube stops from me, too. Even better!

      • Reply
        Robert Wareham
        December 30, 2013 at 8:54 AM

        Sorry, I should have said they’re based in Barons Court but put on quite a few of their shows at The Lyric. That’s really why I mentioned them. But you should definitely take a look. As you say, who doesn’t like a very good, completely free show right in your doorstep?! :)

  • Reply
    Jenn
    December 27, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    This sounds like a great tradition :)

  • Reply
    Jenn Bowers
    December 28, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    Looks like so much fun! Love all the vibrant colors!

  • Reply
    Mrs. Match
    December 29, 2013 at 4:45 AM

    What a fun new tradition! I would be anxious about being called on stage too. I’m outgoing, but that kind of thing freaks me out. They have a show in SF that is sort of similar, where the audience is encouraged to sing along. So fun!

  • Reply
    Katrin
    December 30, 2013 at 9:13 PM

    That is such a cool tradition! Glad you had such a nice time! I agree: I prefer the small theaters too. It’s much more intimate.
    Hope your New Year’s Eve will be fantastic!

  • Reply
    Emmymom
    January 1, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    I have never heard of a Pantomine, sound like fun.. and what is with the Ireland/Canada? Is here a chance you may be moving to either of those places?

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 1, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      Oh, no – not at all. Canada, Ireland, and the UK are just the only countries that have pantomime traditions. So I was meaning I wouldn’t be able to keep up this tradition after we move from London unless I were to move to Canada or Ireland! Sorry for the confusion!

  • Reply
    Jo
    January 6, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    I’m so glad you got to go see a Panto! They are fab! We are lucky enough to have one here in Belgium (in English) (well one that I know of) so we go every January. The kids love it. I just emailed my friend Noreen today to confirm how many tickets she needs to get for us.

  • Reply
    Anne
    January 7, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    I got to see Henry Winkler play Captain Hook in the Peter Pan pantomime when we were there. It was fabulously fun. I’m so glad you went to see one!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 7, 2014 at 7:56 PM

      We saw that one, too! I should have my review on it up tomorrow! So funny that we saw the same one! :o)

      • Reply
        Anne
        January 8, 2014 at 9:09 PM

        I just read your PP review. How very cool that Lexie got smooched by The Fonz!! That is an awesome story. We had more fun at the pantomime. I saw 11 shows in the two weeks we were there and the pantomime was high on my list of favorites. It is such a great way to teach children about live theatre.

        • Reply
          Sarah Shumate
          January 9, 2014 at 11:13 AM

          11 shows in two weeks! Did you have time for anything else? ;o) I love seeing shows here, too. It’s the perfect thing to do in the winter when it’s cold and rainy. People here call it ‘museum weather’, but it could just as easily be ‘theater weather’!

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