The tale of Jack and the Beanstalk dates back centuries in Europe. But the production of a show written especially for young children by Jacqueline Wade is bringing the tale to a contemporary urban setting.
In the modern tale, Jack, portrayed by Channing Jackson of Fresh Meadows, and his recently widowed mother, played by Vanessa Pringle, must sell an old van rather than the traditional cow.
Jack is now a sports-loving high school student, who still makes a trade for magic beans with a smooth-talking stranger.
They still are discarded and grow into a beanstalk up to the sky, leading to the chicken that lays golden eggs, and a fateful encounter with a giant.
Carl Clay, executive director of the Black Spectrum Theatre, said the play is perfect for schools, and that he hopes to allow groups to book performances of the show even after the formal run ends on Friday, Dec. 13.
He also said the theater added a few small tweaks to give the show a more local flavor.
“It still has the lessons and morals of right and wrong, of working hard and working together to achieve what you want,” said Sean Turner, who portrays the narrator in the tale.
The play is interactive, with Jackson’s and Turner’s characters calling on children in the audience to get up and sing and dance, or sometimes just having their characters ask the children for help or advice.
Jackson said the show is as much fun as it is work. Just one example of the physical demands is the collection of leaps, tumbles and other acrobatics made during his second visit to the Giant’s castle — against a new and improved security system — in which he improvises the choreography in a “Mission: Impossible”-esque entry.
“Each time is different,” he said, still sweating after a rehearsal on Tuesday morning.
Jackson said he is relatively new to children’s theater, and that he began rehearsing the role of Jack three weeks before opening.
“He’s doing a great job,” said Turner, who has worked on previous Black Spectrum productions.
Just like many little children admit to being afraid of scary characters such as the Wicked Witch of the West and various evil characters in Disney movies, the cast acknowledges that some children might at first be concerned with the Giant, played by Darnell Shelton in a deep, booming voice.
“Especially because kids buy into the play,” Turner said. “But I think they quickly figure out what we’re doing.”
Other cast members include Akil Williams in the dual roles of the Giant’s magic beat box and the stranger with the blue hat to whom Jack trades his father’s van; and Courtney McKay as the Giant’s wife.
Bette Howard is the director.
When: Thursday, Dec. 12 and Friday, Dec. 13, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Black Spectrum Theatre, Roy Wilkins Park, 177th Street and Baisley Avenue, Jamaica.