Review: JACK AND THE BEANSTALK at The Fulton - The Truth Is, You'll Laugh

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK is an old, old fairy tale, so old that it's grown whiskers as long as the beanstalk, and for most people, the only way it ever looks new is if they can cadge a showing of Disney's classic MICKEY AND THE BEANSTALK. There's not much you can do with the thing, is there?

Think again. How about, in one hour, you entertain both children, at their levels, and adults, who don't feel like they're trapped in a Chuck E Cheese party, because they're having their own party? It's a tall order, but Marc Robin and Curt Dale Clark, who are pretty darn good at that sort of thing, do it here, with a story kids will love, a giant on stilts, an old man who might (or might not) be a wizard, a dancing cow, and everything else children call entertaining. Then they deliver a delightfully self-referential ("This is a fairy tale, not a documentary, can we please move on?"), Broadway-referential, movie-referential piece of pure vaudeville that even a sophisticated theatre-lover can, and will, enjoy. Buddy Reeder has directed it with infectious glee, and you can't help but think it's the best ride in the amusement park.

We begin, and end, with the charming love story of a boy and his cow. The boy, naturally, is Jack; the cow, though it looks suspiciously like the "moo cow, a new cow, a true cow" of GYPSY, is really the best friend a boy ever had, and a pretty good hoofer as well (proving it's not Dainty June's moo cow). From there, to the giant's "castle in the clouds" (hello, LES MIS), and head-spinning nods to FORTY-SECOND STREET, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE WIZARD OF OZ, and even SPAMALOT, the chaos just keeps rolling, and so do the adult laughs.

Perpetually breaking the fourth wall - oh, forget it, this show has no fourth wall to break, it's vaudeville - keeps the adults as well as the children delighted. The "Mysterious Man" who looks a bit like a wizard, Randall Frizado, does an alleged magic routine directly for the audience that's more Irwin Corey than Harry Houdini, yet keeps everyone amused. He also keeps the adults in stitches with the continuing show-reference theme of the humor; when Jack asks him if he's telling the truth about the magic beans, Frizado delivers a "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" that would make Jack Nicholson proud.

It's all silly, frivolous fun, with Cameron Scot Slusser as a not-so-brave and delightfully addlepated Jack, Katie Sina as a dotty-from-hunger mama, Kevin Faraci as a be-stilted, greedy, Englishman-sniffing giant, Katie Bates as Princess Miranda (she and Jack have the most pointed exchange on love-at-first-sight moments in musicals that may ever have been written), and, most delightfully, Robin Lounsbury plays Ogra, the giant's disgruntled wife, with an edge that suggests there's about to be a feminist awakening in fairy-tale villains land. Randy Jeter and Emily McLoughlin complete the cast as the two halves of Gussie the Cow, whose tapping talent might very well have saved Dainty June and Her Farmboys in that other musical we mentioned.

At The Fulton through March 26. If you don't have any children, but you love Broadway schtick, go anyway. It's an hour well spent, and the funniest show this writer has seen in the past month or more, including the adult-aimed comedies. After a few months of numbness at every comic routine I've seen (including movies and television), this produced my first bout of genuine mirth. Call The Fulton at 717-397-7425.

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