The fun has just begun…an exciting 2012 lies ahead!

As we come to the final couple weeks of Oliver!, 2012 has already proved to be an exciting and eventful year. However, as we cross our fingers for the sunshine to return and head into spring and summer, here at Birmingham Hippodrome we have even more to look forward to…

Artists impression of The Voyage...

Artists impression of The Voyage...

The good news is, this summer, we will be providing the city with two major cultural events – both of which are FREE!! Birmingham Hippodrome is delighted to be producing The Voyage (21-24 Jun nightly at 10pm) a spectacular free outdoor event in Birmingham’s Victoria Square which forms part of the opening weekend of the London 2012 Festival.    In a unique global collaboration between Australia’s leading physical theatre and aerial company Legs on the Wall and the UK’s leading outdoor dance company Motionhouse, a giant ship will be constructed in the square and transformed into a live set for a cast of over 160 who will present high wire, extraordinary aerial acrobatics, massive projections on the Town Hall and song and dance.  You can visit www.thevoyage.org.uk for more information.

To add to the flurry of activity in the city centre, Birmingham Hippodrome’s Six Summer Saturdays returns this summer for the third year! Animating the city with the very best outdoor and interactive performance, these FREE events inspired by London 2012, will run over six Saturday’s (7, 14, 21 Jul & 11, 18, 25 Aug) and promise to feature a multitude of exciting sights and sounds. Visit www.sixsummersaturdays.com to find out more.

As well as bringing theatre to the streets of Birmingham, let’s not forget the fantastic activity happening on our main stage! 2012 marks the third International Dance Festival Birmingham (IDFB) This award-winning city-wide festival, co-produced by Birmingham Hippodrome and its partners DanceXchange, attracts artists and companies from all over the world.

Royal Ballet Flanders

Royal Ballet Flanders

Performances include Royal Ballet Flanders (25 & 26 April) who perform the groundbreaking William Forsythe ballet Artifact in Birmingham for the first time, Danza Contemporanea de Cuba (8 & 9 May), legendary ballet star Sylvie Guillem and dancer/choreographer Russell Maliphant (11 & 12 May)  perform PUSH; plus the critically-acclaimed hip hop festival, Breakin’ Covention (14 & 15 May) returns to Birmingham with live performances, DJ’s and MC’s in the foyers combined with international artists. Lastly, Birmingham Hippodrome welcomes the sensational Circolombia (16-18 May) who perform their gritty production, Urban, fusing electrifying circus, South American hip hop and reggaeton dance www.idfb.co.uk

To round off a fantastic season we also have blockbuster musicals including The King & I (1 – 5 May), Wonderful Town (22 – 26 May), I Dreamed a Dream (29 May – 2 Jun) Dirty Dancing (4 Jul – 25 Aug) and Sister Act (9 – 20 Oct), phew!! Who’s excited…I cant wait!

…p.s has anyone heard the very exciting news about a certain masked man coming to Birmingham next March…? Friends booking opens 8 May!

“Is it worth the waiting for”…OLIVER! opens in Birmingham

Ben Wooldridge, Press & PR Assistant, writes…

100's of props await their turn on stage...

100's of props await their turn on stage...

Spring is  here; the sun is shining, the leaves are appearing on the trees and, most excitingly of all, Cameron Mackintosh’s  Oliver! has finally opened on the Birmingham Hippodrome stage.  Last night I found myself in my best suit (kept for only the most prestigious of press nights, of course) welcoming a mass of VIP’s and members of the media to the official press night of this spectacular new production.  Our Oliver! branded chocolate coins proved to be a favourite for young (and old) guests and, I must admit, a personal highlight too.     

Obviously, the evening went incredibly well and the fantastic performance was met with a standing ovation. However, when you sit and watch such a huge production like Oliver! it is easy to forget just how much effort goes on behind the scenes. The press team took a trip onto the stage earlier this week to see the final preparations going into the production ahead of the first performance, and what a busy place it was! Automation were busy testing flying pieces of scenery, staircases and descending bridges, whilst costume were readying the quick change area’s in ‘costume city’ set right behind the back cloth on stage (usually this part of a production is called ‘costume village’ but due to it’s sheer size it has aptly been renamed ‘costume city’)  and the hundreds of props were being set in preparation for the run-through. It’s pretty incredible that back on Saturday evening a full-scale opera production was mounted on our stage then, with the help of our dedicated technical team, just three days later we are ready to open one of the largest productions touring the UK at this time.

A production such as this works like a  finely oiled machine with every tiny detail given the same amount of attention, love and care…and with a company of between 125 and 130 people working on every single show it’s easy to see why!

Costumes for just one scene in the production!

Costumes for just one scene in the production!

As well as an adult company of 31, children are also obviously a vital cog in the workings of this production. There are 24 children in every given performance, with 3 teams of 12 who tour the country with the show as well as 2 teams of 12 local children who are recruited from all parts of the Midlands be it Coventry, Solihull, Wolverhampton and many more. That’s a lot of hungry mouth’s to feed as well as school, look after and change costume’s, which keeps the chaperones and Company Manager very busy indeed!

As soon as we open another exciting event will be the return of Mr. Brian Conley as he comes back to Birmingham Hippodrome to take over the role of Fagin on March 3rd from Neil Morrissey. Brian will be joined in rehearsal by Cat Simmons who will be taking the reigns of Nancy from Samantha Barks who leaves the show on the same date to join Hugh Jackman and co. to film the Les Miserables movie, how exciting!!!

In terms of being busy with such a fantastic production, I really couldn’t ask for MORE…

For more info on Oliver! CLICK HERE

Oliver! star Neil Morrissey brings Fagin to life on stage.

Mandy Rose, Press & PR Officer writes:

Last week I had the pleasure of a trip to Manchester Palace Theatre, taking along a member of the local media with me to see the matinee performance of Cameron Mackintosh’s Oliver! before it transfers to Birmingham next month.     

St Paul's Cathedral!

Although I have worked in theatre for over twenty years I never forget how priviledged I am to have access all areas to some of the best and most famous musicals in the world,  Oliver! included.  As soon as we arrived the company manager, Neil White, took us  backstage and straight onto the set.  Standing in the middle of the stage with the auditorium behind me the crew flew in some of the sets for us to see including the amazing St Paul’s Cathedral – which provides the backdrop for the Artful Dodger’s ‘Consider Yourself’ – (played at the matinee by Solihull born Max Greisbach – watch out for him!).     We then went into the wings to see all the costumes in the ‘Costume City’;  I spotted Mr Bumble’s coat, a big basket of red roses and a pot of gruel (yuk), with over 200 costumes in the show most of the cast don’t have time to go back to dressing rooms to change so a ‘Costume City’ is created in the wings to save time.   

After a few minutes looking round we were ushered into a very quaint dressing room immediately via the auditorium and there stood Neil Morrissey who plays Fagin!  You’ll probably know Neil from his ‘Men Behaving Badly’ days. Once in  I spotted Fagin’s hat, gloves, a  fantastic green coat and colourful waste jacket all hanging up!  We were in Neil’s dressing room for media interviews and the chance to watch him being made up to become pick pocket, Fagin (amazing that the character of Fagin, although a baddie can  be so liked by the British public).

Neil Morrissey pictured in his dressing room getting made up.

He tells me it takes  around 40 minutes before each performance to get into make-up, false beard, and wig  and I can see why.  Layer after layer of make-up is applied, with the beard itself having around five layers of hair.  But don’t take my word for it, CLICK HERE and watch the exclusive video filmed by my colleague, Ben Wooldridge of Neil’s full transformation!

You can catch Neil Morrissey as Fagin in Oliver! at Birmingham Hippodrome from 13 March-1 April, with Brian Conley in the role from 3-21 April.

Oh, and 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth, so  Happy Birthday Charlie!