So the end of 2009 heralded another successful year for Birmingham Hippodrome with record breaking sales for We Will Rock You, sell out performances of Rocky Horror and West Side Story to name but a few. Yet the ‘bread and butter’ of our theatre diary comes from the annual Christmas pantomime. Come rain (snow in our case) or shine, panto lies at the heart of Birmingham Hippodrome’s schedule with next year’s production going on sale the Christmas before. It really is a case of 365 days of panto as far as we are concerned. 365 days of planning, marketing, promoting, casting, scripting, rehearsing and selling – and we love every minute of it!
The appeal of it never ceases to amaze, with adults, children, couples, groups and families all booking well in advance to ensure that they secure their seats for what is to many their annual Christmas treat. A lot of our most loyal patrons are very passionate about panto, sending us reviews, comments and compliments. Of course, we do receive the occasional complaint, but all our staff are trained to respond quickly and efficiently so we can put things right and learn for the future. As I write this, over 18,000 people have already booked or reserved their seats for next year’s production, Dick Whittington which runs from 18 Dec 2010 to 30 Jan 2011.
In a year where most economic news has been full of doom and gloom, pantomime provides audiences with a guilt-free, fun experience. It is okay to heckle, scream, shout or throw your head back and have a good belly laugh. I think that it is this, coupled with our really amazing special effects, costumes and casting that keeps audiences coming back year after year, and continuing the family tradition.
Unbelievably, it has been said that some people “look down their nose” at pantomime, but for many children this is their first entry into the world of theatre – an old-fashioned and welcome alternative to all the ‘virtual excitement’ they get in front of screens. Yes, in places, panto has always been a bit commercial, but it never takes itself too seriously, there are no rules or dress codes to follow. It is pure fun and it has continued to survive, thrive and even outlive many other trends and gimmicks over the decades.
Over 100’000 people will have seen Joe Pasquale and Ray Quinn in Sleeping Beauty this year. Long may we continue to provide the people of the West Midlands with some light hearted, jolly good fun.