Birmingham Hippodrome’s Corporate Development Manager Judith Greenburgh blogs about the successful Leading Ladies events which she started 3 years ago.

We’re talking Hollywood in the Development team –  proper vintage Hollywood glamour: pearls, boas, furs, top hats and tap dancing. No, we’re not day-dreaming, just preparing for the next Leading Ladies event at Top Hat on Tue 17 Mar.

It’s a special, anniversary occasion as this is the show that launched Leading Ladies in 2011. Three years down the line, with three fantastic sponsors, a group of core members, and a growing list of over 100 participating companies, Leading Ladies has become one of the most popular (and glamorous) networks of its kind in the city.

We still aim to mix business with show business, offering networking that is original and fun. Our unique calendar of events helps guests to develop valuable cross-sector business relationships and provide an innovative setting in which to entertain clients.  And we love to profile local businesses through our prize draw.

Since its launch Leading Ladies has raised nearly £30,000.  This funding  has contributed to the  successful  £1m Stage Appeal, the fabulous Curtain Raiser project with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Company and  the Relaxed Performance at pantomime.  The money has also helped  benefit people of all ages, who would not normally experience live theatre, through our Hippodrome Plus projects.

When I see the reaction on our guests’ faces to the surprise cast appearance, hear the gasp when they realise that the table decorations are actually edible, swing brollies, wear sparkly trilbies or snaffle popcorn, I know that the showbiz nerves are all worthwhile! Confused?  Take a look at our Gallery of Images

Our event at Top Hat will be no exception.  BBC presenter Joanne Malin has kindly agreed to return to host the evening.  I’m just wondering if she will be swept off her feet again like the last time this show came to town ……..!

To find out more about Leading Ladies and book one of the final, remaining places at the next event, give me a call on 0121 689 3082.

Lastly I want to take this opportunity of thanking each and every Leading Lady for their generous support over the years – you really do make a difference.

Pictures below from the recent Edward Scissorhands Leading Ladies event attended by dancers from the production.

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Behind the scenes with Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Wigs Department

One of the wigs from Coppélia

In the studios of Birmingham Royal Ballet, seven ballerinas are getting to know the stunt double that they will all be working with for this month’s performances in Birmingham.  She’s made of plaster, weighs a ton, and can’t stand up on her own. Happily, the dancers don’t mind the comparison.

The doppelganger is needed for the comic ballet Coppélia, the story of a crackpot inventor and toymaker, who builds life-sized mechanical dolls. Eventually he creates one so realistic that the local teenagers believe a new girl has moved into the street.

Sneaking into the toymaker’s house to investigate, they discover their mistake, and have to pose as toys around the workshop, hiding in clear sight until they can make their escape.

Central to this action is Swanilda, who adopts the place of the doll that fooled them all in the first place. Seven ballerinas will take turns performing the lead role each night, meaning that the doll that they impersonate has to be adapted for each show to make the switch convincing.

Elisha Willis and Maureya Lebowitz in the role of Swanilda; photo: Roy Smiljanic

“When Swanilda is played by Australian-born Elisha Willis, we have to ensure the doll has a wig of matching blonde hair” explains Wigmaster Henry Menary. “Then the next night Swanilda might be played by fellow dancer Maureya Lebowitz, who is a very dark brunette, and so we have to switch the doll’s wig to match. On matinee days, different casts perform in the afternoon and the evening, which creates a lot of additional work between shows, on top of the wigs and facial hair required by the enormous cast of human performers.”

BRB Wigmaster Henry Menary

Confusingly, the doll itself then has a stunt double – a floppy cloth version that is fleetingly tossed across the stage. She’s only seen for a moment, and yet takes longer in hair and make-up than the prima ballerina.

“She’s so floppy, I have to told her head up with one hand while stitching her wig on with the other”, explains Wigs Assistant Lauren FitzGerald – the other half of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s two-person wigs team.

Two wigs drying in the oven

None of these wigs are bought off the shelf. Each is individually styled before each season, and dried in a purpose-built oven. They’re then maintained throughout the long seasons of performances, to avoid, as Henry says, “droopy ringlets”.

While the cloth doll has its wig stitched on, toupée tape is used on the rigid plaster version. The idea is not to make the doll look completely convincing – it’s important that the audience are in on the joke long before the characters on stage work out what’s going on!

Birmingham Royal Ballet dances Coppélia at Birmingham Hippodrome, 24-28 February. To book, click here, and see the trailer (including the doll!) below:


Oh what a beautiful Morning! – Oklahoma! rehearsals

The press team recently went to London  for  a sneak preview of rehearsals for the forthcoming revival of the feel good musical Oklahoma!  the very first musical written by the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

This new production is produced by Music and Lyrics and stars Belinda Lang, Ashley Day and Gary Wilmot who returns to the Hip following his starring role in the acclaimed pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk at Christmas.

Oklahoma! features a memorable score including, Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’,  I’m Just a Girl Who Cain’t Say No,  Surrey With a Fringe on Top,  Kansas City,  People Will Say We’re in Love and, of course, the rousing title song itself!

It’s choreographed by the very talented Birmingham born Drew McOnie who choreographed our recent panto.

The show runs at Birmingham Hippodrome from 30 June until 4 July.  #BHoklahoma!

Take a look at the rehearsal images below!

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