Full steam ahead for Britain’s Biggest Panto…

Press & PR Assistant, Ben Wooldridge (@benwooldridge) blogs about a trip to rehearsals and final preparations for Birmingham’s swashbuckling panto…

Ahoy there! The past couple of weeks have proved to be a busy and exciting time as we saw the final performances of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s spectacular Cinderella whilst the cast for this year’s panto got into the full swing of rehearsals whilst set, costumes and a box full of magic tricks arrived at the theatre.

Brian & Kathryn rehearse their number

Brian & Kathryn rehearse their number

Last Friday we took a minibus full of media down to rehearsals in London at The London Welsh Centre, a quaint little building in the heart of the city by Euston Station complete with wooden beams and cosy chairs – the perfect Christmas setting! Upon arrival we were treated to two production numbers, one from Lesley Joseph and the other a duet from Brian Conley and local girl (in her record-breaking third panto appearance in a row here!) Kathryn Rooney. The one thing that really stuck out is the amazing choreography in this year’s production, this probably comes as no surprise as Karen Bruce, who is in charge of creating the routines this year, has worked on the last two seasons of Strictly Come Dancing and Vincent and Flavia’s Midnight Tango!

Following a brief lunch underneath the Christmas tree we then sat down with Brian, Lesley and producer and director of Robinson Crusoe, Michael Harrison for media interviews in front of the camera and behind the microphone. Michael has created no less than 53 panto’s for QDOS entertainment and is also producer of the brand-new West End musical, The Bodyguard. Both Lesley and Brian talked about their excitement for this year’s panto and Brian even promised a better show than last year’s sensational Cinderella!!

Brian & Lesley talk to the press

Brian & Lesley talk to the press

Meanwhile, the cast are now all safely in Birmingham for the final stages of rehearsals in our DanceXchange studios. Elsewhere on stage the rigging is being hoisted, ships are being assembled and giant shells are flying through the air as the magnificent set comes together. Wardbrobe are also busy unloading hoards of costumes and we have heard whispers that there are over 300 of them, all of which are brand new!!

To listen to interviews with Brian, Lesley and Michael from the day CLICK HERE and tune in to our latest Podcast.

Panto is always an exciting time here, and this year is certainly no exception – look out for more updates soon…

For more info & to book for Robinson Crusoe & the Caribbean Pirates CLICK HERE.

Ho, Ho, Hippodrome!

Press & PR Assistant, Ben Wooldridge (@benwooldridge) blogs about Christmas coming to the Birmingham Hippodrome building…

Hanging the Christmas lights...

Hanging the Christmas lights…

Tonight we begin our festive season with the opening night of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s simply sparkling production of Cinderella, but the festive sparkle doesn’t remain on the stage – it is criss-crossing its way through our front of house areas and even onto the front of our magnificent building.

Staff have been working as hard as Santa’s Elves over the past few days setting the scene by hanging reams of ‘icicle’ lights from above the bars and trailing fairy lights up the beams of the foyer.  Today also saw the arrival of four grand looking Christmas tree’s which will be lighting our foyers throughout the Christmas period…it’s just proving hard to believe it’s this time of year again! As usual, the front of the building has also been given a magical makeover with the addition of more icicle lights and hanging giant snowflakes and believe me, they are a lot harder to hang than it looks…

Snowflakes decorate the outside of the building...

Snowflakes decorate the outside of the building…

Backstage has been a similar hive of activity with carriages drawn into the wings, grand staircases and pillars assembled on stage and even the inner workings of a clock fixed together in the fly tower. A particularly busy department in any grand production of this scale is Wardrobe and in this fascinating photo film I went backstage with Head of Wardrobe at BRB, Lili Sobieralska to find out more about the mind boggling array of costumes used in the show – CLICK HERE to take a look.

In conclusion, wherever you are in Birmingham Hippodrome, “it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…”

For more information on BRB’s Cinderella CLICK HERE.

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Birmingham Hippodrome goes live backstage at Dirty Dancing TODAY!

Press & PR Assistant, Ben Wooldridge (@benwooldridge) writes…

In just over two hours time we will be going live behind the scenes of Dirty Dancing…I’m excited but scared of my wobbly hands!

All of today’s streaming  will be coming directly to you, the loyal Birmingham Hippodrome followers, from my iPhone therefore I apologise if 25 minutes in to the broadcast a small shake comes along now and again. Rest assured I have been practising, whilst the Olympians of 2012 have been conducting their athletic training, I have a strict regime in iPhone holding!

It’s all very clever how we are able to take you behind the scenes with just a phone and I really can’t wait to share this afternoon with you after the success of our Panto Photocall stream a few weeks back.

Beginning at 6.15pm today (17 July 2012) we will join the full company on stage as they complete the daily physical warm-up, then from 6.30-6.45pm we get an insight into the intense vocal warm-up before curtain up. This will be a unique and rarely seen opportunity to take a glimpse behind the red curtain and see the day to day workings of a major theatrical production.

I’m also very pleased to say that the stream will be introduced by Birmingham born Kate-Emma Portlock who plays the role of Vivian Pressman in the award-winning production.

You can watch the stream live via posted links on Birmingham Hippodrome facebook page (www.facebook.com/birminghamhippodrome) and the @Brumhippodrome twitter feed (www.twitter.com/brumhippodrome) – Links will appear on both pages at the time of broadcast.

See you later…. Ben

Dirty Dancing runs until 25 August.