Panto spreads a smile even outside of the theatre…

 Ben Wooldridge tells us about a rewarding week at work…

There are many things that I enjoy about my job, but the last couple of days have to be among the most rewarding having  taken some of the stars of our pantomime, Cinderella to visit some very special children.

Asif gives Cinders a kiss at Birmingham Childrens Hospital

Asif gives Cinders a kiss at Birmingham Childrens Hospital

Panto is always an extremely busy schedule for the cast, but performers are always willing to give up their time before or between shows to make a special visit to some outstanding charities to see the work that they do and the people they benefit.

Last Thursday, Kathryn Rooney (our Cinders) and Dan Burton (the dashing Dandini) joined me on a visit to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Appearing on the wards in full costume, the panto stars took time to meet and greet with patients, their families and staff  before heading back to the theatre for the matinee performance. We met some great kids on our travels, especially cheeky little Asif who you can see giving  Cinderella a kiss on the cheek! Birmingham Hippodrome will this year again be supporting the hospital by offering patients and their families free tickets to see Cinderella as part of the ongoing Panto Appeal made possible by kind donations from the public when booking tickets.  Thanks to everyone who has donated – you make this possible.

Henry and family meet Basil Brush at Acorns Childrens Hospice

Henry and family meet Basil Brush at Acorns Childrens Hospice

Following on from Thursday’s magical trip, I then had the pleasure of escorting the one and only Mr.Basil Brush to Acorns Childrens Hospice in Selly Oak;  Acorns cares for nearly 600 children who have life limiting or life threatening conditions.  We had a great time chatting to the children at the hospice and Basil made a fantastic friend in Henry who showed our fox round the centre.

All in all it proved to be a memorable highlight of my time working at Birmingham Hippodrome and one that I look forward to repeating this time next year!

Cinderella ends Sunday 29th January.

Backstage on a Friday…

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Friday – the end of the week for a standard, 9-5 office dweller; for the panto lot, however, it begins 3 days of two shows per day in another busy run of performances.

In the calm before the storm this morning I took a sneeky peek behind the scenes to get some shots before the cast and crew arrive in the building…

 

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Flying, Fairies and FX – it must be Panto tech rehearsals!

Ben Wooldridge, Press & PR Assistant blogs about an exciting period in the lead up to Britain’s biggest Pantomime, Cinderella.

Setting the stage...

Setting the stage...

Since the set for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker was dismantled on Saturday evening destined for the colossal O2 Arena, the Birmingham Hippodrome stage has been a hive of endless activity as crew and technical staff have been working through the night to erect the huge pieces of scenery and hang the endless rows of lighting rigs as the cast of Cinderella prepare to move to the main stage for rehearsals.   It’s  been a fascinating insight as I sit typing away at my desk watching the plasma screen in front of me displaying a live feed from the Hippodrome stage as hoards of sequined curtains are raised and special effects begin to be set and tested.

Lighting design at work...

Lighting design at work...

Today is a very magical day indeed as the first part of rehearsal involves testing some of the spectacular flying sequences! We can’t reveal too much but audiences are in for a real treat with some of the special effects this year.   I talked to a couple of members of the backstage team about the week so far, our Technical Assistant Stage Manager on the show, Adam McClelland told me, “all is going well backstage – the last few days have been a mix of helping wardrobe, rehearsing some of the ‘magic’ and doing lots of prop making / buying!  The stage is very busy today with a flying rehearsal and  practicing some of the other amazing tricks!”. Assistant Stage Manager, Matthew Breen also said “We’re on the third day of rehearsal in Birmingham and everyone is gearing up to start the technical rehearsal at 2:30pm this afternoon. This is where we slowly work through the show adding in all of the technical elements such as lighting, sound, projection and flying. In addition, the cast will also rehearse all of their costume changes (most of which are done in a very short period of time).   This year Midland audiences can expect beautiful and lavish sets, stunning costumes and fantastic special effects; with over 300 costumes being used, 1800 pyrotechnics and 534 lights in the rig!”

Our very own Cinders, the lovely Kathryn Rooney added “Now the set is up and looking amazing I’m so excited – it simply looks stunning!”

You can watch a great behind the scenes video with Heart FM’s Ed and Rachel as they attended rehearsals earlier in the week by clicking here. Also, keep an eye on our Flickr account for updated backstage images!

The show is certainly shaping up to be one of our biggest and best pantomimes yet and I for one can’t wait…the clock is ticking!!