Arts + Entertainment

Hazlitt Theatre Making Big Comeback With Jack And The Beanstalk Panto Show

Questions raised about how Hazlitt Theatre in Maidstone will be run under plans for local council to take control

The Hazlitt Theatre in Maidstone has managed to bounce back from the brink of oblivion, with management confirming its new pantomime show will go on stage in 2021.

The show is due to run from November 27 2021, to January 2 2022, so there are still plenty of details to iron out, including picking who will headline the cast. “We still have a lead name celebrity to cast, but we have started this process,” revealed Martin Cleverley, the Hazlitt Theatre general manager.

What we do know is that a large part of the overall cast will be filled by members returning from the 2020 show and that the pantomime will be based on the age-old tale of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Leaning on a story as well-known and popular as Jack and the Beanstalk for a comeback show could prove to be a stroke of genius. Originating as “The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean” in 1734, Jack’s story and his mystical journey have been told and retold countless times in countless iterations for 287 years. It is a story as old as time and one that is universally loved.

Among the many modern retellings of Jack and the Beanstalk is the 2009 movie of the same name, as well as 2013’s more ambitious Jack the Giant Slayer. There was also an arcade game released in 1982 called Jack the Giantkiller. The story has even influenced the iGaming industry with an official Jack and the Beanstalk Slot by NetEnt available at many free spins no deposit casinos, such as Casumo and Casino Lab.

And the Hazlitt Theatre needs something really big to get back on its feet after a dramatic year of uncertainty and strife during which, at one point, it seemed as if the most likely scenario was that the venue was going to be shut down entirely.

The problems started in November last year when the Maidstone city council ended its long-standing contract with Parkwood Theatres to manage Hazlitt and instead took it back under its control.

The news came as a hammer blow to both Parkwood Theatres and Hazlitt after nearly a full year of no live shows after the British government closed virtually all cinemas, theatres, and live show venues in the country due to health and safety concerns.

The move also led many to believe the Hazlitt Theatre was on its last legs, holding no confidence that the Maidstone council had any interest in keeping the theatre running, let alone having the in-house expertise to do so. This resulted in a public petition for the theatre to be saved and safeguarded by national authorities for the foreseeable future, which garnered thousands of signatures.

In the end, thankfully, it turns out the fears were unfounded, and the Maidstone council apparently had the theatre’s best interests at heart the whole time. If the Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime in Ashford in 2019 is anything to go by, this will be a show to behold.

While they continue to look for a celebrity lead, auditions will also be held for children in the local community to fill roles in the pantomime. However, Cleverley warned people against all flocking back down to the theatre as soon as its doors are reopened.

“We are looking towards a May 17 reopening, with a bit more normality returning by June 21,” he explained. “From April 12, we’re hoping it will be possible for limited work with under 18s and the youth theatre.”

While theatregoers will need to wait patiently till the end of the year to catch the Jack and the Beanstalk panto, the theatre is already back hard at work. Live shows get back underway from March 19 with a live show featuring singers Tom Self and Darren Clark, which will be streamed to the internet.

The Hazlitt Theatre has also already lined up shows with big-name comedians Jonathan Pie and Andy Parsons in September and stand-up veteran Omid Djalili in October. While the phrase “the show must go on” feels fitting here, it is pretty clear that the show never stopped for the dedicated personnel working at the Hazlitt Theatre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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