It’s behind you!
That’s the traditional call of the Birmingham pantomime - and it’s certainly what the team at Birmingham Hippodrome and panto fans will be hoping for this Christmas as rehearsals begin for Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
The production, starring Jason Donovan making his pantomime debut, was delayed for a year due to the pandemic.
But it’s back in style from December 18 to January 30 and is the UK’s biggest regional panto - and the first circus themed one at Birmingham Hippodrome in 24 years.
Australian actor and pop star Jason plays the Evil Ringmaster, supported by Brum panto legend Matt Slack as the Ringmaster and Doreen Tipton (aka Lazy Cow Queen of the Black Country) as the Lion Tamer.
A raft of Covid-19 safety measures are in place and there’s a real buzz as preparations get underway.
What does Jason Donovan say about his panto debut?
Taking a quick break from dress rehearsals Jason, who is touring England and Ireland ahead of his panto role, told BirminghamWorld: “We’re all tribal beings we need to get into theatres. “We need to support our culture.
“There’s no point in supporting the buildings, because they don’t exist unless you have the creative people inside them - that’s what brings them alive, otherwise they’re just heritage sites.
“This is going to be therapy for a lot of people.”
How has Birmingham Hippodrome coped through the Covid-19 pandemic?
Like other theatres, the Hippodrome struggled during the pandemic. Redundancies were necessary and government support was required and its performers were left at home.
Panto is one of the biggest earners for theatres. After last year’s cancellation they’re hoping that this year, it’s a case of the show must go on.
Speaking to BirminghamWorld Matt Slack said: “There was a point when I thought, maybe it’s game over for us all in the theatre industry.
“I’ve been a bit emotional today to be honest. We cannot ever lose the live aspect, because there’s just nothing like it.
“Panto is so important as an art form. For many it’s their first experience of live theatre.”
Fiona Allan, Chief Executive, Birmingham Hippodrome, said “We’ve gone paperless, we don’t handle cash and we insist on mask wearing
“This year there’s no such funding to offset us.
“But we are delighted to be preparing to welcome back our much anticipated pantomime this December. We really felt the absence of pantomime in the 2020 festive season, and we know our audiences did as well, so with such a wonderful cast on board I am sure Goldilocks and the Three Bears will more than make up for a missed year.”
Chief Executive of Crossroads Pantomimes, Michael Harrison, who is producing and directing Goldilocks and the Three Bears, said: Michael, who will be producing and directing Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Hippodrome added:“The audiences are going to truly love Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
“The show will incorporate the very best of the production I created for the sell-out London Palladium panto in 2019, alongside lots of new material created especially for our Birmingham cast and audience.”
Who else is in the cast?
The cast also includes Birmingham’s own Alexia McIntosh as Candy Floss and Wolverhampton star Samantha Dorrance as Goldilocks.
Alexa is a graduate of The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and is very excited to be starring in pantomime in her home city. For the last three years she has played Anna of Cleaves in the hugely successful production of SIX in London’s West End for which she was nominated as Best Supporting Actress in a musical at the Olivier Awards.
Samantha began her career on Disney Channel after winning their talent search show, You’re The Star. Her previous theatre credits include Dreamboats and Petticoats in the West End and on UK Tour.
Panto veteran Birmingham Hippodrome panto rehearsals get underway with Jason Donovan, Matt Slack, Doreen Tipton, Alexia McIntosh and Andrew Ryan also joins the cast as Dame Betty Barnum. It’s his fifth panto at the Hippodrome, his previous credits include Giles in The Mousetrap at the St. Martin’s Theatre, and Mark Styler in Anthony Horowitz’s Mindgame at The Ambassador’s.
A final word from Doreen….
One thing guaranteed, it’s a laugh - especially with Doreen Tipton in the cast.
She said: “I must admit, I’m very emotional. It’s my first time back in 18 months and I’m loving it. The roar of the greasepaint. The smell of the crowd. Of course I can only smell you [BirminghamWorld video journalist Nick Dee] at the moment!”
- To book visit birminghamhippodrome.com or call 0844 338 5000 (4.5p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge).