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

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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The Ugly truth about Heart FM’s Ed James and Steve Denyer!

What’s the saying – there’s nothing like a Dame?  Well, this week we invited those little ‘Dames’ Ed James and Steve Denyer from Heart FM to meet Martin Ramsdin and David Robbins who are currently wowing audiences with their amazing costumes as the terrible Ugly Sisters in Cinderella.

The challenge was for David and Martin to turn Ed and Steve into Heart Ugly Sisters for the day.  So, backstage in their dressing room at Birmingham Hippodrome they did just that and wow did they do a good job!    

Take a look at the gallery below or CLICK HERE to see their amazing transformation and tell us what you think – should we book them for panto?!! 

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You can see Martin and David as The Ugly Sisters alongside Brian Conley, Lynda Bellingham and Basil Brush in Cinderella until 29 Jan.

Ed James presents the breakfast show on Heart with Rachel New.  Catch Steve Denyer on Heart Drivetime.  CLICK HERE for more information

Heart FM’s Ed James on butterflies, split sole jazz sneakers and singing lessons!

Heart FM’s popular breakfast show presenter Ed James blogs about  his forthcoming starring role in the Birmingham musical Wallop Mrs Cox which receives its Birmingham Hippodrome premiere next week.

Ed James in rehearsal

Let me rewind time for you!  It was back in January when I agreed to my theatrical debut!  I was very honest with everyone,  I told them there are three things they needed to know, “I can’t act, can’t sing and definitely can’t dance” – “you’ll be fine was the reply!”      I think I have this thing whereby people always think I’m taking the mickey and having a laugh …… when rehearsals started they realised I was being totally honest!

Since the start of the year we’ve been rehearsing twice a week, Thursday night and all day Sunday and it’s been loads of fun!  There’s nothing quite like trying things you’re no good at to focus the mind and get you on that steep learning curve.  At the very back of my mind was always the fact in June, we’d be doing this for real, live and totally exposed on one of the finest stages in the UK!    Well, over the past few weeks that thought has gone from the back, to the very front of my mind!!

Over the weeks and months we’ve been learning the numbers individually and we’re now at the stage where we’re putting it all together.  Inevitably some of it works, some of it doesn’t, some bits we keep, some we have to relearn or tweak.  Last Friday our set arrived at Birmingham Hippodrome.  It’s impressive!  Modern, striking, sweeping and not to mention quite high!  We actually had bets on who would be the first to fall off before opening night!  This was a huge turning point because in many cases things clicked into place and made doing what we had learned really come to life.  However, the opposite is also true and the set actually exposes the scenes which need more work, which is the reason for a few extra rehearsals this week!

How am I feeling at the moment??   Nervous really doesn’t cover it!  For the past week I’ve not been sleeping and what’s more I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night reciting lines from the show and at one point … even dancing!  Trying to explain why I was doing a ball change and a ‘step –  turn – step’ under the covers was an interesting moment!  I’m not sure if this is normal or not but I’ve also got a constant feeling of butterflies!  Honestly!  I could be making a cup of tea and suddenly think to myself, “why do I feel anxious?”, then I’ll remember what I’ll be doing at 7.30pm on June 8th!

Full cast rehearsal, Birmingham Royal Ballet studios, Birmingham Hippodrome

We’re all too familiar with the word journey at the moment, we’re used to hearing Simon Cowell et al telling the fame hungry wannabees on X Factor that they’ve been on their own ‘journey’.  But it really is the only word I can think of to describe the process of being involved with a show.  From the things you learn, to the people.

There have also been many firsts ……. I’ve danced in the same place as the world famous Birmingham Royal Ballet, (what’s more I was wearing my own split sole jazz sneakers!)  I’ve had singing lessons!  And I’ve found myself practicing dance steps at 5 AM in the morning in the Kitchen!  I also can’t remember having as much fun as this for a long time!

The cast are hugely talented, it’s well written, the songs are simply stunning and you’ll be singing them for days afterwards.   It really will make you proud to be a Brummie.  I hope you’ll come and see the show and I hope you love it!

Bring on opening night!

Wallop Mrs Cox is a co-production by BMOS Theatre Company in conjunction with Birmingham Hippodrome.   It runs at Birmingham Hippodrome from 8-12 June.

 Follow Ed James on twitter @edjames1