Tuesday, 26 January 2010

the last week!

Well it's the last week of Sleeping Beauty and there's just 11 performances left to hiss and boo with the rest of the audience.

It's going to be very strange not to have Joe Pasqaule and Ray Quinn arriving at Stage Door everyday.

I'm going to miss seeing the chorus head towards the stage in those flamboyant walk-down costumes. I'll miss the smell of washing powder as the machines fast spin an array of shirts, skirts, tights and personals! And the Dame's wardrobe, which sits right behind the back of the set because there's too many costume changes and not enough time to go to a dressing room.

I'll miss walking down the dressing room block, passing people putting on stage make-up and getting ready for their 'five minutes please'. And I'll miss sitting in the company office waiting to grab someone for a press interview.

I'll miss seeing familiar names on dressing room doors, watching the audience arrive before curtain up and looking at a sea of flashing lights and twinkling tiaras.

But hey, what am I talking about, it's nearly the end of January already - only 11 months until Dick Whittington opens and we can start all over again!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Vidar Hjardeng is a regular theatre reviewer for Talking Newspapers a news source for blind and partially sighted people. He is passionate about theatre and reviews our Audio Described performances on a regular basis. He recently paid a visit to Sleeping Beauty and here is what he had to say:-
"January can often be rather a long, dark and dreary month so a bit of cheering up, courtesy of the Pantomime season, doesn't go amiss. The ever popular Joe Pasquale is back at Birmingham Hippodrome and I went to see the first of 2 audio-described performances on the evening of Tuesday 12 Jan (the next one is this coming Saturday afternoon, 23 Jan). I'd not previously seen Sleeping Beauty done as a panto, but it certainly has all the traditional ingredients of this type of festive entertainment.
For those able to go on the pre-show behind-the-scenes touch tour, a lot of time was spent examining the Dame's (Lady Passionella's), countless extravagant costumes with yards and yards of ostrich feathers, sequins and gold! During the show Lady P comes on as a number of celebrities such as Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner and Amy Winehouse, whose outrageously high heels were also on display during this touch tour - so too was the 8 metre long stretch limo, a Rolls Royce in which Lady P first makes her grand entrance. Also available for inspection were the 2 upright cribs containing the small 'bodies' of Princess Beauty and Muddles (aka Joe Pasquale) with holes at the back so that the performers can stick heads through and appear in the cradles as their younger selves. Along with Dr Who's Tardis, we were also shown the cage used to imprison Prince Daniel, played by X Factor finalist, Ray Quinn.
The standard 'live' scene-setting notes presented 15 minutes before curtain-up, remain consistently invaluable, giving a description of the 2 principal locations - the castle, where Sleeping Beauty and the family live, and the wicked fairy's lair - along with who plays which character. I would suspect that pantomime must be one of the greatest challenges for an audio describer since no matter how much detailed preparation you do, things often change on the night, especially when the actors are feeling mischievous! The expertise of the resident Sightlines' describing team, Jonathan Nash and Margaret Spittles, was once again in evidence as they coped, in true panto style, with the unexpected"
Click here to read a Birmingham Post article which was written by Chris Morley in 2008 about our audio described performances at the Hippodrome.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Working in a theatre shift patterns are different for many departments and because the building is so big you might not get to see some of your work friends for days.

So it was good to catch up over a coffee with Jonathan Thompson, Head of Customer Services here. If you are a regular to the Hip you may spot him front of house most nights.

He and his team are working flat out looking after the many thousands of people streaming through the doors to see Sleeping Beauty. He tells me that over the last few weeks he's also looked after some famous celebrities including the astrologer Russell Grant (what's new for Scorpio this year?), singer Tony Christie (is this the way to Amarillo?) and presenter Noel Edmonds, with his agent (could it be he's considering panto this year?).

Jonathan's team have also been busy with two bucket collections this season (arranged via the panto producer). The collections raised £2,000 each for Great Ormond Street and Children In Need, so big thanks to everyone who donated.

He also told me a lovely story about a gentleman who had left his wallet underneath one of our seats in the stalls. "He had obviously left everything in there so we were rather concerned for him. We found his pantomime ticket in the wallet and we were able to get his mobile number from his booking details. We immediately rang him and found out he was in a restaurant at the Mailbox on a first date. So we reunited him with his wallet straightaway and he was able to pay for the meal. (imagine being on a first date and not being able to pay the restaurant bill!).

Jonathan also told me that Giant Chocolate Buttons are the favourite sweet for panto goers this year. (I love them myself but I don't think my waistline could cope with much more sugar this year!).

And finally..... 3D glasses are distributed at every panto performance and are collected in plastic bins after curtain down. So imagine the front of house staff who had to sift through 1,800 pairs after a patron had accidentally dropped her reading glasses into the bin. Patiently they did it and I'm told the lady went home happy that she did not end up having to wear 3D glasses.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A New Year

Am back from the festivities so it's a belated Happy New Year greeting to you all and hope Santa brought you everything you wanted for Christmas.
Despite all the snow our wonderful hard working cast, crew and staff all got in safely during yesterday's blizzard conditions here in Birmingham and the curtain was raised at 7.15pm last night to add some panto cheer to a very cold Hurst Street.
The lovely Ray Quinn was the last to enter the building having set out early yesterday to drive from London to Birmingham, looking a little cold he still managed to belt out a great Frank Sinatra tune in Act 1.
By the way if any of you 'tuned' into our Twitpanto before Christmas, it's in the running for an award, you can Click here to find out more and cast your vote.
Matinee audience will be arriving in a little while, lots of hot chocolate I think.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Mulled wine and mince pies!

The press reception at the theatre last night was full of festive cheer as over 40 members of the media, birmingham bloggers and broadcast journalists arrived for press night.

The mulled wine was steaming and the hot mince pies were being eaten before curtain up. Nick Owen arriving with just minutes to spare after presenting Midlands Today and dashing across the city, Steve Denyer from Heart, Dan Morrisey from BRMB, Jo Malin from Radio WM and Suzanne Virdee from Midlands Today were all spotted.

Click here to read what the press say about the production (updated as they appear)

Monday, 21 December 2009

Panto is now open

Whilst shoppers braved the Bull Ring on Saturday the auditorium at the Hip was packed out with mums, dads, grandparents and children as the curtain went up for the first time on the UK's biggest pantomime.

After months of planning and recent rehearsals the company finally took to the stage over the weekend with four performances of Sleeping Beauty. And, as I write this blog, patrons are flooding through the foyer to take their seats for this afternoon's matinee.

Always a great start to Christmas week, it's a magical way of diving into the festivities of the season and forgetting all your troubles to enjoy a couple of hours at the panto with friends and family.

It's press night tonight so if you are in the audience this evening look out for some familiar newsreaders and local radio presenters.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Curtain nearly up on panto!

It's been a very hectic week for the cast of Sleeping Beauty. As I write this the company are doing a technical run-through on stage and later tonight there's a full company dress rehearsal. Can't believe after all these months of planning the pantomime will be opening tomorrow and just under 2,000 people will be seeing the first performance.

Front of House have already had a delivery of 4,000 3D glasses which will be given out to patrons at every show and I've been told that all the booster cushions we supply on request have been steam cleaned ready for families to use!

Special mention must go to the Hippodrome crew who have worked hard during get-in and are busy working the dress rehearsal at the moment.

And as I write this the Twitpanto is being performed on Twitter which has a great audience and cast!

The curtain goes up for the first time for Sleeping Beauty at 2.30pm tomorrow so if you've got your tickets for this performance we look forward to welcoming you to the start of the panto season.