Panto stars Julian Clary and Matt Slack get behind The Big Give Christmas challenge at Birmingham Hippodrome – oh yes they do!

Over the last two years we have been lucky enough to be accepted into The Big Give Christmas Challenge.   This is a great opportunity for members of the public who wish to donate to have their money doubled by The Big Give.

'Aladdin' - The Birmingham Hippodrome, 25th September 2015. Julian Clary and Matt Slack. Picture by Simon Hadley 07774 193699 www.simonhadley.co.uk

Julian Clary and Matt Slack get behind The Big Give Christmas Challenge

Last year £12,000 was raised through the scheme towards our Relaxed Performance of pantomime and we thank everyone once again for their generosity.  It meant we could welcome over 1,000 theatre-goers with complex disabilities to experience our  popular pantomime in a relaxed environment.

So this week we are particularly delighted to announce that we have been accepted into The Big Give Christmas Challenge for the third year running.

This year we are raising money towards our Hippodrome Heritage Project.  We currently have professional archivists working with a talented group of 30 volunteers to help research and archive the history of this much loved theatre so that we leave a legacy for future generations to enjoy.    And we will be able to get our collection online and in touch tables situated in the foyers so everyone in the community has access.

We have such an amazing heritage and over the years  have welcomed the biggest star names in the world of showbiz including Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye, Ken Dodd, Judy Garland, The Beatles and more.

You can find out more about the project in our latest Heritage Podcast presented by Heart FM’s Ed James.

If you are interested in helping to preserve over 100 years of our rich heritage then please save 4 & 5 December  in  your diary.

You can only donate on these two days and from 12 noon only but you have to be quick.   If you are lucky to get through your donation will be doubled by The Big Give.  Donations can be from as little as £1 to £1,000 plus.

We’ll be posting more blogs about The Big Give over the coming months so do keep following.   And keep in touch with our podcasts as Ed  delves more into our heritage  including fascinating interviews with one of our pantomime Dames and the great grandson of Henry Draysey who built the original theatre back in 1899!  #BHheritage

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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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Putting the Sparkle into Christmas – Backstage at Birmingham Hippodrome…

Ben Wooldridge, Press & PR Assistant, takes us behind the scenes at Birmingham Royal Ballet as they prepare to bring their iconic version of  The Nutcracker to the stage, whilst the theatre foyers undergo a Christmas transformation all of their own…

The wardrobe dept. hard at work...

The wardrobe dept. hard at work...

Can you believe it? It’s almost Christmas again… and here at Birmingham Hippodrome it has already arrived! As Birmingham Royal Ballet’s festive production of The Nutcracker moves in backstage, the magic is also spilling out into our front of house areas as our foyers are decorated for the Christmas season.

Sir Peter Wright’s timeless production of The Nutcracker is now a well established shining star in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s repertoire and signals the beginning of Christmas for audiences across the city. This week I took a sneak peek behind the scenes to find out about the hard work and dedication that goes into making the show as fresh and magical as its world premiere back in 1990.

One of the stunning rat costumes used in the show...

One of the stunning rat costumes used in the show...

Ahead of opening night on 25 November (one month before the big day!) over 6 weeks of preparation has already been taking place in a very busy wardrobe department.  The production features over 200 stunning costumes, requiring hundreds of man hours in the sewing on of sequins, shortening tutus, or letting in or out seams. Several new dancers have also joined the Company this year and many of the costumes may need altering to fit them. This all equates to many late nights and early mornings, but a dazzling finish…I think some of my favourite costumes have to be the terrifying rats, who make quite a breathtaking entrance at the beginning of the show!

The props team make the finishing touches...

The props team make the finishing touches...

The props department is also hard at work making last minute touches to numerous iconic objects, such as a remote control rat that charges across the stage, a set of soldier toys, a row of candy canes and, of course, the Nutcracker doll himself. Larger elements of the design, including the massive set are also being prepared and mounted; the scenery, props and lights for the show will travel to the Hippodrome in five articulated lorries from the Birmingham Royal Ballet stores in Dudley. When the sets arrive work will begin on the ‘get-in’ and ‘fit-up’, this process takes approximately three days and another two days are usually required for technical and stage rehearsals; you can watch a fantastic video of the stage preparations here.

Toy soldiers get brushed up before their performance...

Toy soldiers get brushed up before their performance...

The Nutcracker features a huge transformation scene where a Christmas tree grows from 4 metres to 15 metres and a fireplace grows to fill half of the stage! A crew of around fifty people work backstage on the production and during the transformation scene it certainly becomes a case of ‘all hands on deck’. What would a production of The Nutcracker be without a little snow? In the show 75kg of flame retardant artificial snow rains down on the stage, specially imported from a company based all the way in New York!

Birmingham Hippodrome's Christmas sparkle...

Birmingham Hippodrome's Christmas sparkle...

It is not just backstage that has seen a flurry of festive activity, this week has already seen much preparation from our front of house and maintenance staff as decor begins to twist its way up the banisters of the foyer, baubles begin to pave the way for festive visitors and fairy lights dangle from windows and ceilings. 

There has also been a lot of climbing up and down ladders and a very speedy scissor lift, or cherry picker, as staff made final preparations to our very own Christmas tree – the fine looking Birmingham Hippodrome tree now stands pride of place at the enterance of the building, complete with its Hippodrome purple and silver baubles. We also have giant snowflakes raining down on our front facade, making our building look very festive from the outside plus three giant snowflakes inside the building made entirely from various sized baubles!

The lights go up in the foyers...

The lights go up in the foyers...

So, our merry provisions are almost ready for the official start to Christmas this Friday (25 Nov)…all we need now is an audience to bring the Christmas spirit alive, oh and I suppose I need to start the shopping now! See you all at the panto – then it really is time for Santa. For a full set of photos from my backstage tour and images of our Christmas transformation click here.

For more information on The Nutcracker and to book tickets, click here.