Christmas in Birmingham is synonymous with three things: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker, the German Christmas Market, and Birmingham Hippodrome’s legendary pantomime.
Last Christmas, our city was left with no pantomime for the first time in decades as the pandemic forced theatres to let their curtains fall and close their doors. But 2021 is a slightly different story, with thousands set to head to the Hippodrome in the coming weeks for their seats at Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
It goes without saying that the Hippodrome always pulls out the stops in delivering a pantomime that raises the bar each and every year. Dazzling costumes are often shipped up from the prestigious London Palladium, and each story is cleverly scripted and adapted to pack a Brummie punch.
Everyone knows the story of Goldilocks, but this production has given the classic bedtime story an extra boost with the introduction of Betty Barnum’s Circus, featuring real performances that’ll leave you on the edge of your seat. With magicians, trapeze acts, tightrope walkers and even the Globe of Speed, Goldilocks is a real showstopper that has its audience on tenterhooks but receives thunderous applause and cheers throughout.
Stereotypical backdrops have been scaled down and swapped out for multi-million-pound production pieces, including animatronic animals and stunning costumes that immerse you in the world of the circus. Teamed with a star-studded cast and ensemble, it’s hard to believe that the show’s rehearsal time was a mere two weeks.
Brummie panto legend Matt Slack makes his return to the stage for his eighth year on the trot as Ringo The Ringmaster, and it’s clear to see that the audience has missed his quick-witted humour and tongue in cheek jokes that hit the right notes for both adults and children alike. Matt’s an absolute staple in the Hippodrome’s panto that’s seen him become a family favourite. He’ll be returning for the 2022 production of Dick Whittington.
Jason Donovan makes his panto debut as Count Ramsay of Erinsborough and seems to fit right in as the panto baddie. Together, Jason and Matt make an absolute dynamic duo with joke after joke surrounding Jason’s career in Neighbours, Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - which returns to the Hippodrome in 2022 - and his on-screen relationship with fellow Aussie, Kylie Minogue.
Local bab Doreen Tipton stars as the Lazy Lion Tamer and manages to gain many laughs from the audience thanks to her deadpan humour that fits in perfectly with her far from energetic role. Andrew Ryan also returns for his fifth season at the Hippodrome as the delightful Dame Betty Barnum. Now in his 31st year as a Dame and his 35th panto, it came as no surprise that Andrew wowed the crowd - and that’s not just down to his brilliant and over the top costumes.
Wolverhampton’s Samantha Dorrance and Alexia McIntosh complete the main cast as Goldilocks and Candy Floss, with each performer using their incredible singing voices to their advantage, although admittedly I would’ve liked to see them appear a little more throughout the production.
There’s so much to love about this year’s panto at the Hippodrome. It’s packed with jaw-dropping magic and laughter throughout, and it’s clear to both see and appreciate just how much work has gone into it behind the scenes to ensure the audience enjoys every second of the two-hour performance that just provides pure joy and escapism as we face another challenging period.
The theatre industry is currently going through an incredibly tough time with many West End theatres suspending productions until 2022, so not only was it a pleasure to be sat in an auditorium where audience members were wearing their masks, but also showing support to a tradition that introduces so many young people to the world of theatre. As Matt Slack said during a powerful speech, children are the future of theatre.
If you’ve booked or are thinking of booking tickets to Goldilocks and the Three Bears this holiday season, it’s worth every penny that you pay - and then some. Beyond the show itself, the fantastic team at the Hippodrome are working incredibly hard to keep everyone safe and to reduce the risk of the theatre closing its doors.
An absolute masterclass in theatre and pantomime, Birmingham Hippodrome has once again failed to disappoint in delivering the greatest panto on earth.
Golidlocks and the Three Bears runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday, January 30. Click here for more details and to book your tickets.
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