This rock-bluegrass musical is based on the Appalachian version of the medieval fairy-tale, "Jack and the Beanstalk." Music, dance, rap/hip-hop, magic, masks, puppetry, and comedy make Jack! a turn-about in tradition: an old story in a new, hugely entertaining 21st century edition.
APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN 4-14
Your Birthday Parties
and make sure
to book in
Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum (and Do, Re, Mi)
By LAUREL GRAEBER
Published: March 19, 2004
Audrey II of "Little Shop of Horrors" isn't the only enormous plant dominating a New York stage this spring. But the one at the Looking Glass Theater doesn't eat people; it raises them up. This greenery snakes through the center aisle and then up onto the set of "Jack!" This musical adaptation of "Jack and the Beanstalk" is given an Appalachian flavor by Hana Roth Seavey (book and lyrics) and John Henry Sheridan (score).
Although the staging is intimate, much about this show is big: really big. The actors first carry the beanstalk on their backs, animating it with their green-gloved arms and hands. But this plant is only a prelude to a larger star: the giant, in the form of a 13-foot-tall bunraku-style puppet that towers over the ogre's wife (Bat Parnas). Designed by Ken Berman and Frankie Cordero, he stretches clawlike hands over the audience, even ruffling some hair. Although potentially scary to toddlers, to older children the giant is in all senses a huge hit.
Kate Marks, the director, has given "Jack!" lots of circus flash, with inventive masks and rollicking choreography. Acrobatic skills are also abundant, from Jack (David Myers) to his cow (Carlton Ward) to the hen that lays golden eggs (Jody Flader). Streamers fly out of the sorcery book of the old man with the magic beans (Everett O'Neil). Even the giant's stolen harp is ingenious: the body of it is a woman (Oona E. Flaherty).
But not all the show's treats are visual. Ms. Seavey's book cleverly relates Jack's battle to win back his patrimony and help his mother (Esther Ammon). Mr. Sheridan's lively score embraces bluegrass to hip-hop, with instruments ranging from guitars to piano to washboards. It's all very danceable, and at the end the actors invite the children onstage for some twirls: a kind of "ding-dong, the giant is dead" celebration.
"Jack!" Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 4:30 p.m. at the Looking Glass Theater, 422 West 57th Street, Clinton. Through April 10. Tickets: $12; children, $10. Reservations: (212) 352-3101.