3 jacks & a jill
by Tricia Andrews
From the Powell River Peak newspaper:
Play weaves nursery rhymes into story, production loosely based on pantomime
A new musical theatre production will have its audience revisiting childhood fairy tales for a bucket of laughs.
Community theatre company Theatre Now! is presenting Three Jacks and a Jill, a musical play loosely based on English pantomime, to audiences at Evergreen Theatre, Powell River Recreation Complex.
Tricia Andrews wrote, co-directed and acts in the play with Tina Thompson. Andrews also wrote the music and lyrics and Thompson choreographed the dance numbers.
“I started the story with Jack and Jill and tried to figure out how to take that and expand it and what other characters I could bring in,” said Andrews.
The story, which mixes the fairy tales of Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty, Jack Sprat, Little Miss Muffet and Little Jack Horner, is set in a fictional universe of Powell River Village where the mill, run by villain Desdemona Queen of Hearts, is restricting water, sending villagers up the hill for supplies.
“Water is really important to the village,” said Andrews.
Hilarity ensues as the characters, some gender-crossed, sing and dance their way through the story with slapstick humour.
“Jill actually saves the day,” said Andrews. “Jack falls down the hill, knocks himself out and he’s pretty much out of it for the whole play.”
Thompson said that quite often in English pantomime the hero of the play is a young woman and the dame character is usually played by a man.
“The dame always thinks she’s beautiful, but of course she’s not,” said Thompson.
The three Jacks in the play are Jack Sprat Jr., Desdemona’s assistant Jacques and Dr. John Horner.
“I’ve tried to bring in nursery rhyme elements into the play as I’ve gone along,” said Andrews. “The doctor has a plum-thumb.” A travelling troubadour followed by a large spider, helps the audience through the story with songs.
Andrews said she wrote the play with the actors in mind.
“With our theatre group we have trouble getting men to take part,” she said. “I thought there should be more women’s parts.”
Each of the parts, besides Jack, are fairly equal in importance and lines. “There’s no really big, big parts,” she added.
Cranberry and Lois lakes bumble their way through the story, a feature of pantomime that Andrews wanted to play up.
She said a lot of humour also comes out in her writing style and repeated phrases running through the story.
As she wrote the script she tried to play with the conventions of the English pantomime form, a participatory theatre experience where the audience is expected to sing along and to shout out to actors on stage.
The form of the play should be familiar to audiences who attended performances of Dracula last year with the audience directed to boo when they saw the vampire.
The play, with its cast of 20 actors, runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from November 29 to December 8 at the Evergreen. Evening performances will be held at 7 pm on Friday and Saturday nights with matinee performances at 1:30 pm on Sundays. The play is approximately two hours in length.
Thompson suggested that, especially with the second weekend, people arrive early to ensure they have seats.
“We’re having a good time doing it,” said Andrews. “It comes across on stage.”
Admission to the play is by donation which Andrews said is the tradition of English pantomime. She added that the play is to give back to the community for its support of community theatre throughout the year.