Jack and the Beanstalk has been given a musical and psychological twist by Stephen Sondheim in Into the Woods and now the classic fairy tale becomes modernized and kid-powered in a world premiere by Charles Way titled JACK and Phil, Slayers of Giants-INC.
The fresh and funny production emphasizes friendship and loyalty—bonds that endure despite ups and downs, extraordinary circumstances and the craziness of sudden fame.
Jack (Chris Dinolfo) is a popular, easygoing lad who is good at sports and breakdancing. His idyllic existence in the town of Chewville (rendered by set designer Daniel Ettinger in a cozy, retro backdrop that looks like a 1950s travel poster) by the looming reality of homelessness.
His mother Barbara (Katy Carkuff), recently widowed, is struggling to make ends meet and cannot pay the mortgage anymore. Their house is up for sale and Barbara is embarrassed by their circumstances.
Jack enlists his best friend and next-door neighbor Phil (Adi Stein) to figure out a way to avoid foreclosure. Phil is a careful and brainy guy to Jack’s daredevil ways. They go to a pawn shop presided over by a weird old hippie (Jamie Smithson, riotous in a variety of roles, including smarmy TV reporter Chaz Gravitas) who proposes an exchange—Jack’s heirloom gold pocket watch for a handful of “magic beans.” If the two boys “survive with honor” the pocket watch will be returned.
The beans indeed sprout into an enormous beanstalk that leads to the Giant’s lair (Puppet designer Matthew Pauli created the Giant’s enormous head with rotting brown teeth for a delightful ewwww factor), which is booby-trapped with golden treasures.
Aided by mastermind Phil, Jack makes off with a golden egg and a singing golden harp (Hayley Travers as a truth-blabbing, diva-esque instrument). All of a sudden, Jack’s a celebrity and a hero, although he conveniently cuts out Phil’s part in saving the day.
Their friendship is sorely tested, as Jack becomes a solo act and Phil is left behind. However, they must put aside their differences and unite when the Giant decides to come down from the beanstalk to feast on the citizens of Chewville.
JACK and Phil, Slayers of Giants-INC
February 3 – March 13, 2016
4908 Auburn Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
1 hour, 30 minutes, no intermission
Saturdays and Sundays
Tickets: $10 – $25
Website and Tickets
Check for Discounts
The classic tale benefits from the contemporary updating, accentuating the friendship theme as well as the head-turning perils of modern fame and greed. Jack, of course, gets a viral music video that is Justin Bieber-like in its goofy egotism—although Bieber cannot boast of a rapping duet with a singing harp.
The cast is uniformly excellent, from Dinolfo’s spirited and often rash Jack (who knew Dinolfo was such a fly breakdancer?) and Stein’s more measured, smart and kind Phil to Carkuff’s loving and stressed Barbara and Eric M. Messner’s supportive and dorky Bill Coverall.
The humor is of the gross-out variety kids love—a gloppy Giant sneeze, sheep that fall from the sky with a “Baaaa!” and a splat. Some of the scenes of the thundering giant may be too intense for very young children, but older tykes will enjoy two young heroes who look like them and sometimes don’t think things all the way through—or in the case of Phil, over-think them.
The play shows that loyalty and strong family ties last forever, while celebrity is fickle—we watch as Jack goes from 10 million Facebook followers to zero in one unfortunate blip. Jack’s motto is “Fame and Fortune, Fortune and Fame!” but his experiences indicate he may want to change that to something less opportunistic.
Jack and Phil, Slayers of Giants-Inc by Charles Way . Directed by Janet Stanford . Featuring Katy Carkuff, Chris Dinolfo, Jamie Smithson, Eric M. Messner, Adi Stein, Hayley Travers. Scenic Designer: Daniel Ettinger . Costume Designer: Debra Kim Sivigny . Lighting Designer: Robert Denton . Sound Designer: Christopher Baine . Puppet Designer: Matthew Pauli . Stage Manager: Trevor A. Riley. Produced by Imagination Stage . Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.