Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Cinderella - The Greatest Pantomime of Them All!

Billed as "the greatest pantomime of them all" the Birmingham Hippodrome's 2011 pantomime "Cinderella" doesn't lie!

I've been a regular panto-goer at the Hippodrome for  ten years now and have seen many Cinder's go to the ball, Jack's climb beanstalks and Aladdin's find magical lamps. But this year QDOS (the UK's biggest pantomime producing company) have managed to top themselves again.

Brian Conley returns to the Hippodrome making this his 5th pantomime at the venue - a record for the theatre - and manages to bring lots of laughter for all audience members.  Panto leading lady Kathryn Rooney also returns to the Hippodrome to play the title role proving she not only has the beauty of a princess but also the voice of an angel. Lynda Bellingham makes her panto debut as the Fairy Godmother making you wonder why she hasn't made an appearance before - dare I say she was the most glamorous Fairy I've ever seen?

David Robbins and Martin Ramsdin are possibly the wickedest Ugly Stepsisters I've ever seen (and with names referencing to this years X Factor they are utterly hilarious!) Dan Burton and Matthew Goodgame make an admirable duo as Dandini and Prince Charming. Basil Brush even makes his role of the Baron his own and grasps the character like any true actor would!

Having seen well over 15 pantomimes by QDOS it's easy for gags to get recycled and routines to get boring but this years production brings something fresh to the Christmas tradition... New effects mean Cinderella and Buttons both go to the Ball via a route over the heads of the audience and we see a traditional panto horse get transformed into a real life Shetland pony. There's plenty of gags and audience participation to get even the hardest pf Scrooges chuckling along. But the highlight for me was definitely watching Buttons (Brian Conley) battle it out with Prince Charming whilst singing a love duet with Cinderella... Even poor Cinders gets caught up in her hassle.

With magical songs, slapstick routines and costumes to dazzle (over 300 of them I believe) the Birmingham Hippodrome is the place to be this Christmas for festive entertainment for the whole family... Oh yes it is!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Slava's Snow Show is a Must See!

From the minute I walked into the auditorium covered in snow I felt that I wasn’t in for an evening of “usual” theatre, and let me tell you: I was not disappointed. Usually I find rather easy write a review; I can talk about what cast member I liked the most, my favourite song, what didn’t work too well in my opinion and so on. However, with this show I just don’t know where to begin! One sentence best sums up this performance: Slava’s Snow Show is amazing! It is literally a visual feast of delightfulness.

A company of clowns enchant audiences as they cover them in a blizzard, wrap them up in a giant spider web, throw massive inflatable balls out and cover them in water. There’s not much story behind the entirely mimed show but it seems to bring out the inner child within you, who wouldn’t feel like a child when you’ve got half a dozen clowns throwing water at you?

I’m not going to lie, at first I was a bit sceptic. Did I really want to sit through a show of clowns miming? I found out I did! The show moves so fast with so much fun there’s not a moment for you to get bored.

Since seeing the show I’ve had a dozen people ask me if it’s “scary”... (The whole “I’m scared of clowns situation”) and it isn’t! Is it weird that I actually felt sorry for the clowns? The characters make you fall in love with them, not fearful of them.

I don’t want to write too much as it will give everything away, but seriously, there’s no wonder this show won a Tony. Get a ticket!

Visit Birmingham Hippodrome for ticket and show details.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Zombie Ball - Jamie Chapman talks about his Halloween event

Jamie Chapman, organiser of Birmingham's "Zombie Events" and this weekend's "Zombie Ball" recently answered a few questions about the "Zombie Events".

Regarding the organisiton of such as huge event he says, "I had previously organised a few flashmob events in Birmingham, so already had a selection of people to invite through Facebook. I never would have thought there would be over 1,500 zombies walking the streets of Birmingham by 2011. It's just got bigger and bigger each year, which is fantastic for both the people involved and the charities we support."

Jamie, being only 21 already has a list of events under his belt, and being only 21 there must be a lot of challenges. He goes on to comment, "Being only 21 it has been such a great achievement to have organised these Zombie events in aid of local charities. Despite the stress that comes with it I wouldn't ever change it as I have met some great people through organising these events that I will stay friends with for the rest of my life. It's easy to pick up a newspaper or turn on the television and have the hope drained from you by the all the bad news that is reported, but the fact is there are many more good people than there are bad in this world. I consider myself lucky to be fortunate enough to work with so many good people as a result of organising these events."

This weekend's "Zombie Ball" and the Birminhgam Ballroom is all in support of St Basils, a charity dedicated to helping homeless youths across the city, is set to be one of the biggest events of this season. Both the charity and the city will see many benefits. Jamie comments, "It will raise not only much needed funds but will also raise awareness of the great work the charity does for young homeless people locally. They do such a fantastic job and it's great to be able to give something back to them so that they can continue the brilliant work they do for those that need the help across our region."

Let's not forget the impact it will have the city culture, he says, "It will benefit Birmingham by bringing people together. It's not that easy to meet new people, but these events give people a chance to make new friends and relationships in their lives. Birmingham is a fantastic city with so many positive things going on. You just have to get out there to see it all for yourself."

Useful Links:
St Basils Website
The Zombie Ball Website
Facebook Event

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Burn the Floor - Tour Review

Flashback ten years and I was one of those kids, you know the Latin and ballroom competitive kids that you see covered in fake tan and sequins? I’ve not waltzed since I was at least ten years old. Now in 2011 the international tour of Burn of the Floor visits Birmingham this week and I find myself in awe of this production.

The show is basically a programme of “reinvented” Latin and ballroom dances and at first I thought it would be another “I can’t wait for the interval” show, but it was anything but! The energy and passion the company oozes is captivating and you find it hard to know where to look with such amazing performers on stage. The short snippets of dance means there’s always something new and fresh happening: no time for boredom! The dances range from slow elegant waltzes to foot tapping jives. The dancing is only enhanced by the clever lighting plot and luscious amounts of dry ice.

The company, made up of dancers from all over the world, has such a great chemistry together and perform as an ensemble with each person being given a chance to show off. The simple set means that the production focus’s fully on the actual dancing and is driven by the talent of the company. These people are the best in the world, having been competing and working in the dance industry since they were kids. And let me tell you, their bodies show their years of dancing... Wearing tight fitting costumes covering half their bodies, this show is HOT. Two vocalists and live percussion support the dancers and help the show to flow smoothly, linking everything together.

I think the success of this show is down to Jason Gilkison, the choreographer for this international hit. His reinvention of traditional dances is perfect for today’s modern audience. The routines are set to songs we all recognise including, “Everybody Hurts”, “Proud Mary” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing”. My personal highlight in the show was the number “After All”, a stunning routine comprising of the waltz, tango, Paso Doble and the rumba.

A special mention should go to Emma Slater: a Birmingham girl currently in the cast who already has a biography comprising of Broadway, West End and movie credits.

I came out with the biggest smile wanting to put my sequins back on and take to the floor. Go and see!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Birmingham prepares for first charity Zombie Ball at new city club venue...

A few days ago I was sent a press release for Birmingham's first Zombie Ball, and let me tell you, it's set to be a big event in the Birmingham calander. Read on for more details...

A Zombie Ball, in aid of one of Birmingham’s major charities helping young people, is to take place at the city’s newly revamped Birmingham Ballroom venue this month.

Sarmad Qusai as a ‘Zombie’ outside the Birmingham Ballroom venue

Being launched by the organisers of the annual Birmingham Zombie Walk, the ‘Dance of the Dead’ ball aims to raise money for St. Basils, which works with homeless youngsters in the city.

The event is the Birmingham Ballroom’s premiere Halloween event since it’s reopening in September and is hoped to be as successful as recent Zombie Walks, which have so far raised over £3,000 for charity.

Event organiser Jamie Chapman, 21, feels the Zombie Ball is a unique way of engaging young people with important causes whilst ensuring they enjoy themselves.

“After the success of the third annual Zombie Walk this year, we decided to do a zombie themed club night at the most memorable venue in the city in aid of raising money for St Basils,” he explained.

“I really enjoy voluntarily organising charity events despite it being hard work and quite stressful at times. It’s all worth it to bring everyone together whilst supporting great local causes.”

Previous events have regularly supported Birmingham Children’s Hospital so Jamie felt his fundraising formula could be expanded to assist other organisations.

“We chose St Basils as they don’t get as much support as larger charities and with the winter nights drawing closer, we felt that the homeless were most vulnerable at this time of year. So we hope our money will have a positive impact on the lives of the less fortunate.”

Based in Digbeth and founded in 1972 with just one night shelter, St Basils has grown to have 26 accommodation projects and 367 bed spaces across the West Midlands.

A St Basils spokesperson added: “We are very grateful to the Birmingham Zombies for organising this Ball to support St Basils and young homeless people in Birmingham. The Zombie Ball is a great idea and sounds like a lot of fun. We really hope as many people as possible join in!”

Primarily sponsoring the Zombie Ball is the Oasis Alternative Fashion Store, situated in The Square in Dale End. A short promotional video showcasing the forthcoming Zombie Ball was also filmed on the streets of Birmingham city centre last week with the assistance of the Birmingham Hippodrome.

Tickets for the event are priced only £3 advance and available from www.birminghamzombies.com/zombieball and from Ticketsellers at www.theticketsellers.co.uk, or by calling 0844 870 0000.
• Jamie Chapman is the founder of the Birmingham Zombie Walk and the Birmingham Zombie Ball. He is 21 and from Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham. He began hosting charity ‘Zombie’ events in 2009, aged 19.
• The Birmingham Ballroom has a capacity of approximately 3,000 people in the venue’s main building. It is located at: 52-54 Dale End, Birmingham, B4 7LS.
• St Basils works across Birmingham, Solihull and North Worcestershire to prevent youth homelessness by providing a range of support services and supported accommodation. They work with young people aged 16 – 25 including some young mums and dads, so at anytime housed within our projects there may be babies, toddlers and young children as well.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Tracie Bennett's End of the Rainbow on Tour

Judy Garland once graced the stage of the Birmingham Hippodrome and now over 40 years after her death Tracie Bennett brings "End of the Rainbow" to the theatre giving audiences a dramatic insight into the final events of her life.

Judy starts off as a camp diva, refusing to go on stage and ends up flailing around her London hotel as she is forced into drink and drugs by the life she's led. The emotional ending really hits home. And a few references to The Wizard of Oz are sure to keep the audience chuckling.

Bennett gives a truly magnificent performance as Judy. One moment I found myself chuckling away at her over the top camp performance and the next I was taken aback as she wobbles around stage drunk and dosed up on drugs. It's not surprising that London audiences loved her, and it's not at all a surprise that Bennett will be reprising her role on Broadway. From Judy's voice to her dramatic personality, Tracie Bennett embodies the character.

The show features many of Garland's much loved songs including "The Man That Got Away", "The Trolley Song" and "Over the Rainbow"... Not only are these songs orchestrated beautifully by a small band, but the likeness in the leading lady to Garland's voice is uncanny. Bennet really does capture that deep husky tone that Judy was famous for.

Hilton McRae, Norman Bowman and Robert Maskell give excellent performances to as Anthony (Judy's pianist) Mickey (her fiancée)  and various other roles. The relationship between the men in her life and Garland was portrayed beautifully by these fine actors.

I couldn't help but feel emotional as we see the events leading up to the star's tragic overdose after which Bennet performs "Over the Rainbow" to a standing ovation. The shows leading lady definitely gave it her all and fully embodied the Hollywood star.

Finally, a piece of pure class entertainment is getting the recognition it should! This show deserves every success it gets and it's easy to tell that Broadway will lap this production up. 

See this show on the rest of the UK tour... It's one not to miss.

For tickets and information visit http://www.birminghamhippodrome.com 

Friday, 23 September 2011

My First Night at the Dance Xchange

Last night I was invited to attend Hofesh Shechter’s "Uprising and The Art Of Not Looking Back". Having never attended a legit dance production before I wasn’t too enthralled about the whole idea... My initial ideas could not have been more wrong. From the moment I entered the auditorium with usher’s offering me earplugs I knew that I was in for an evening of something interesting.

Act 1 consisted of a company of male contemporary dancers in an act entitled “Uprising”. I was amazed at their core strength and ability to mould themselves into all directions... Being a dance student (I know, a dance student who doesn't like watch dance shows seems crazy) I can only imagine the years of practise gone into being able to have such control over their movements. It’s also important to note their selling of the performance: the dancers fully committed to the performance and conveyed strong emotions to the audience of dance students, dance enthusiasts and general public. After some amazing flooreography (dancing on the floor... that’s not a technical term) Act 1 ended with a man being suspended by the other dancers waving a red flag (a nice homage to Les Mis in my opinion).

Act 2’s “The Art of Not Looking Back” was presented by a female company. The juxtaposition of men beating each other up in Act 1 to the female dancers performing jaunty ballet positions whilst shaking their stomachs violently at the sky tells us a lot about the artistic choices behind Hofesh’s idea. My highlight of the show was when the men joined the women and the whole company performed a spookily sped up version of the whole show in dimly lit shadows. I believe the lighting plot played a huge part in the success of this show... Without it the dance effects wouldn’t work.

Not being a huge fan of watching dance performances beforehand this show has definitely opened up my mind to a new branch of theatre... I was always under the impression that dance was supposed to tell a story and even though I could not for the life of me decipher a story from the whole piece it was thought provoking and extremely clever. In my reviewing notes I wrote “something from a Saw movie” which I pretty much sum up the whole concept of this piece. I would urge anyone to check out Hofesh’s or the Dance Xchange’s work.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Style Birmingham Live

Style Birmingham Live is back for another year.

Join host George Lamb as he presents the three day event taking place all over the city. Take your seat at the catwalk show where Birmingham's biggest and best retailers will showcase their Autumn 2011 collections with stores from Selfridges to Harvey Nichols offering instore events with the Bullring offering it's own catwalk: The Show. My favourite coffee shop Cafe Blend will also be in on the action as they hunt for the city's chicest shoppers.

Visit Style Birmingham for more information and ticket details.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Evita Returns to the Hippodrome

The Bill Kenwright tour of “Evita” returns to the Birmingham Hippodrome this week to delight audiences with a sweet production.

Abigail Jaye delights as Evita.

Abigail Jaye gives a stunning and sassy performance in the iconic role of Eva Peron. With vocals that melt your ears she overpowers the orchestra and gives a memorable performance of the show tune anthem “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”. Jaye laps up the audience’s applause and it’s easy to see she’s in her element in the title role. Co-stars Mark Powell and Mark Heenehan (as Che and Peron respectively) support their leading lady well and offer good vocals and steady performances throughout. My highlight performance goes to Sasha Ransley in her role as the Mistress as she melts audience’s hearts with her rendition of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”. Reuben Kaye as Eva’s lover Magaldi provides a strong character and luscious vocals. The show’s ensemble support the leading players and deliver strong harmonies (and lots of costume changes). The quirky ensemble number “Peron’s Latest Flame” offers a good build up to the act one finale of “A New Argentina”.

The ensemble in the showstopper "Buenos Aires"

Conductor David Steadman has a great Andrew Lloyd Webber score to work with and the musical arrangements are a feast for the ears as audiences are delivered some of their most memorable musical theatre songs ever written. With music ranging from tango to rock, the score helps to develop the story along nicely and allows for some great vocals from the ensemble with haunting harmonies. Matthew Wright’s design stole the show, with a set composing of moving staircases, sliding balconies and shadowing Argentinean pillars, the visual aspect for audiences is delightful.

The production is a nice show, it has all the right elements – good leads, good score, good set but I can’t help but think something is lacking. Maybe it’s the overload of slow ballads, or the lack of “wow factor” effects; I don’t know. Whatever I think, it’s clear to see that audiences love the show from its great success: it’s been playing the UK for a good few years and has even had an international leg on its tour.

Finally a big shout out and round of applause for some of my buddies who are appearing in the show in the Birmingham stop of the tour... I was like a proud father watching you.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A True Night at the Theatre for “Top Hat On Stage” at the Birmingham Hippodrome

“Dress to impress! It's Black Tie and Tiara night...” As I walked the red carpet at the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre last night I could tell I was in for a true night out full of glitz and glamour. Even before the show began I immediately felt like I had been taken back in time to 1930s Broadway: there were ties and tiaras galore and the people of Birmingham had really gone all out for opening night.

The house lights dimmed and to the audience’s delight the conductor appeared and conducted the 23 piece orchestra under the glow of a follow spot; a definite throw back to the golden age of musical theatre. Three times Olivier Award nominee Summer Strallen and Strictly Come Dancing star Tom Chambers are the perfect duo to lead the strong company of 31 in this musical farce based on love and false identity. They play the roles made famous in the film by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, happy go lucky Broadway star Jerry Travers and the sassy Dale Tremont. Tom Chambers delights the audience with his Fred Astaire tap numbers, especially the act one finale when he is joined by the rest of the company, whilst Summer Strallen charms us with her beautiful rendition of “Better Luck Next Time” as she realises her love life is falling to pits. A personal highlight for me was watching the two leads fall in love in a London park as they tap and sing to “Isn’t It A Lovely Day (To Be Caught in the Rain?)”. Pure brilliance! Other highlights include Martin Ball and Vivien Parry’s act two duet “Outside of That I Love You” as they bicker over their marriage, whilst Ricardo Afonso and Stephen Boswell give genius comedic performances as the Italian fashion designer Alberto and the slightly deluded butler Bates. The cast of 31 continue this delightful performance as they simultaneously tap away in company numbers and bring to life scene including a Broadway stage, an upper class London hotel and a Venice beach.

A big round of applause is in order for choreographer Bill Deamer, mixing ballroom, tap and vaudeville styles to create a visual feast for theatre goers. It all looks perfect on a set designed by Hildegard Bechtler who uses sliding flats, beautiful backcloths and revolving beds to take us to nearly 30 locations. And what’s this show without the music? Although the film only had 5 songs, the creative team dug through Irving Berlin’s back trunk to create a beautiful score that takes us back to the golden era of musicals. Although, I couldn’t help but get distracted by some of the sliding flats getting stuck during scene changes, a few backcloths rising too early (and I’m pretty sure Tom Chambers might have been miming a few of his numbers, forgive me if I’m wrong...)

A big cheer should also go to the Hippodrome staff for hosting the “black tie and tiara” dress code and laying out a red carpet. It’s funny how theatres have spent the past few years making shows more accessible by diminishing dress codes and the affluent nature of the theatre, yet a sense of nostalgia filled the air as the audiences agreed that the theatre should be a place where you can get dressed up and feel elegant.

A 5 star production that deserves every success it gets, and if not more! It’s really good to see a piece of new commercial theatre that’s bringing something fresh to audiences. This show feels old in a sense that it takes you back to a time when theatre was an elegant night out, yet it feels fresh and exciting.

The show plays at the Birmingham Hippodrome until 10th September, before continuing its UK Tour.

Visit for tickets and for details on the show and the rest of the tour.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe's Swan Lake at the Birmingham Hippodrome

I have to admit, the actual idea of going to the ballet is often more appealing to me than actually seeing it. Many times I've tried to sit through three acts of wonderful movement, music and scenery but by the end of Act One I'm often ready to go home. However, The Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe's production of Swan Lake disproved my "Act One only" theory.

The production mixes ballet with circus as the company tells the story of Swan Lake. I can't even begin to detail the amazement of the performance: from men dressed as swans en pointe (that's ballet terms for "on their tip toes"), to dancging frogs, clowns dancing on giant spinning globes and swans prancing about the stage on roller skates.

My personal highlight of the night was watching three men balance poles on the shoulders whilst others ran up them somersaulting from one pole to another. The entire Hippordrome audience was captivated from beginning to end. Another great feat for me was watching the principle dancers perform something I never thought I would see: an attitude promenade en pointe on someone's head (another ballet term: "one leg in the air, the other on tip toes, on someones head whilst turning").

I cannot praise this production enough! The company deserves all it's success and I applaud everyone involved with the show. I'd also like to say a big thanks to the Birmingham Hippodrome Frist Night Scheme... I wouldn't usuall book to see a show like this but thanks to them I was able to see a spectacular production that I will never forget. Who knows, maybe the next time I'm at the ballet I'll be able to sit through all three acts?

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Six Summer Saturday's - Nofit

Chamberlain Square came to life over the Summer as the Birmingham Hippodrome took over with it's "Six Summer Saturday's" project, bringing live outdoor theatre across the city.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Winning the Euromillions (and my attempt to write something clever...)

I’m not usually one to play the lottery. I’m usually too fixed upon the thought of “it won’t happen to me, I’m happy with my life as it is”. I also usually (ok, all the time) forget to play the lottery. It just doesn’t bother me. However, whenever the media is going crazy reporting on the hundreds of millions of pound rollovers, I can’t help it but get drawn in on the mental world of playing the lottery.

As the world knows – unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past fortnight – recently, there was a Euromillions rollover of £161 million. Pure mentality! I decided to give it a go. I walked to the shop and put on a lucky dip. A dip that I was hoping to be lucky. I had my life planned out; where I was going to invest in property, who was getting their hands on my money, what charities I was going to help out, and what new clothes I wanted to put into the wardrobes in mentioned properties. The dip wasn’t lucky. But then again, neither was anyone else’s in the rest of Europe... It was another rollover.

So, my days came and passed and the media was buzzing with the news of the Euromillions. A single winning ticket would make you instantly richer than half of Hollywood’s royalty; they’d make a gazillion pounds a year with interest; and they’d be extremely happy.

It came to Euromillions day and my head was preoccupied with more important priorities. I was walking through the city and I glanced down at my watch... 7.25pm. Wait. Is it Euromillions day? What time is the cut off? Can I still play? I whip out my phone and start to Google... I had five minutes left to buy what could be the most important ticket of my life. I run into a newsagent and grab a pen. It had run out! My heart stopped. The Euromillions site on my phone said I had four minutes left. The man in the queue before me handed me a pen as more people hurried into the store to play the game. It seemed like the whole of Birmingham had forgot to put their lucky dip on. I put my numbers down. Three minutes to go. I run over to the counter where there was an old lady having issues with payment... My heart is pounding, my hands are sweating, and my phone is counting down. I get to the front of the queue as more people rush into the store to play tphe game. Two minutes... My ticket is printed just in the nick of time. I relax; I pay and get out the store. As I get out a taxi had just pulled up. My luck was in: it’s not every day I walk out a store a taxi has just pulled up. Surely luck was on my side... Tonight was my night to win my fortune.

I spend all night refreshing my phone waiting for the numbers to be published online.

I didn’t win the jackpot. However, I did win £2.90 with two matching numbers... Erm, great. I made a profit of 90p. Wow.

The next morning I find myself desperately thirsty. I look in my pocket and find my winnings. I felt a sense of achievement. All that hard work and panic the night before seemed like it paid off. I go and get my extra hot grande skinny vanilla latte and sit looking out the Starbucks window, waiting for a friend. Relaxation. Heaven.

So, when you find yourself with five minutes left to win millions of pounds, just think of the happiness £2.90 could bring you the next day in the form of a hot Italian beverage. It’s life’s simple things...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Dirty Dancing First Ever National Tour (coming to the Birmingham Hippodrome Summer 2012)

The kind people at the Birmingham Hippodrome invited me along to an exclusive press launch for the first ever national tour of “Dirty Dancing” today. First of all, I’m not going to lie; I’ve never seen the movie or the stage show – I’ve been living under a rock...The event was held at Aston Villa Football Ground and included a tour of the ground, drinks reception, lunch, exclusive performances from cast members and a Q&A / photo session.

Upon arrival we were greeted nicely and offered drinks before being shown a stadium tour. The tour included seeing the conference rooms, the pitch and (my favourite part) seeing the home team’s dressing room. I was amazed by the rooms – who knew there were hidden safes behind the team’s shirts? (I’m gonna guess anyone who loves football already knew this...)

Checking out the Villa's dressing room... Click for a bigger version.

After bumping into same familiar faces from other Hippodrome events fellow blogger Alex and I made our way to the main event...

Sitting at one of the press tables, chit chat and socialising was at the top of the agenda - I need to get used to these events and remember that when someone asks “where are you from?” they don’t mean my area, they’re in fact asking me what newspaper, company, ticket agent or TV / radio station I’m from. Following on from a lovely lunch provided by the Hippodrome / Villa Ground, the event began.

Dirty Dancing preview... Click for a bigger version.

James Leece and Charlotte Gooch burst onto stage performing the “Mambo” number: a hot Latin sequence with lifts galore. Karl Sydow (producer of the production) then took to stage to give the audience a general talk about the film, the show and the new tour. Chris Holland and Shonagh Daly then gave us an amazing performance of the song “Do You Love Me?" before all five of the Dirty Dancers held an open question and answer session.

Some interesting questions from the crowd revealed that the tour will include all the famous scenes from the movie (including the water scene, the log scene and of course the infamous lift) and that the production will follow closely to that of the recently closed West End show. However, the original set has been slightly adapted for touring venues (like every other big West End tour). The cast also told some quirky anecdotes about the “lift” going wrong in performances. Who knows? Maybe you’re there the night when Baby’s family have to stop her from face-planting the stage. Before going, the cast gave an extraordinary performance of the famous song “Time of My Life”.

James Leece and Charlotte Gooch perform for the press... Click for a bigger version.

The Hippodrome also revealed today that Dirty Dancing will be the last production to be performed on the current stage. On the 12th August 2012 the theatre will close its doors to undergo a million pound redevelopment of the main stage: a deck that has been there for decades and has seen some of entertainment’s most famous faces perform on it.

After a photo call it was time to leave; my train was full of other audience members discussing how excited they are to see the show (most of them have booked tickets over a year in advance).

Recently closed at the Aldwych Theatre, Dirty Dancing opened in the West End in 2006, breaking all box office records with advance ticket sales of over £15 million, which made it the fastest-selling show in West End history. It has since played to over 1 million people, receiving nightly standing ovations and continuing to enthral and delight. The show is sure to sell out at the Hippodrome soon so booking early is advisable.

Dirty Dancing will appear at Birmingham Hippodrome from Wednesday 4 July to Saturday 25 August 2012.

Ticket Prices: £20-£55 (Concessions available)

Book online www.birminghamhippodrome.com or telephone 844 338 5000.

For more information on the show visit www.dirtydancingonstage.com

Friday, 8 July 2011

Birmingham Hippodrome Presents Six Summer Saturdays

“Six Summer Saturdays is back – bigger and better!” Well, that’s what the Hippodrome is saying in their press releases and after attending a fun filled Press Launch, I can verify that they are truly living up to their promises. Over the summer, the Birmingham Hippodrome is bringing outdoor theatre to the streets of the city from the 9th July to the 13th August. What’s best? It’s all for FREE!

The Six Summer Saturday’s allow the Hippodrome take theatre off the main stage and make live performances accessible to new audiences. Over an estimated 100,000 attended last year’s events.

Today we were given an exclusive preview of some of the events going on across the city... The Pressure Company gave us a preview of songs on some of the weirdest and unusual instruments ever to be played in Chamberlain Square, whilst inflatable lobsters caused havoc in Victoria Square stopping to pose for pictures with innocent passersby. (I also had a chance to try out an interactive game on the BBC’s Big Screen in Victoria Square; I don’t know who had more fun, me or the little kids...)

Make sure you keep an eye out all over the city for snowball fights, interactive games on the BBC’s Big Screen in Victoria Square, inflatable lobsters parading the streets, six foot paintings, aerial theatre and much much more!

There’s something for everyone over the summer, whether you’re looking to make a day out of it, or just happen to get caught up in the wild excitement as you pass through the city. I’ll be going through the city with interactive glasses capturing all the fun on film for the theatre.

More information on the events, performances, dates and times (and the locations) can be found on www.sixsummersaturdays.com

Hippodrome Rocked Out By Brian May and the Cast of “We Will Rock You”

Theatre goers and Queen fans were united on Thursday at the Birmingham Hippodrome for the Press Night of the national tour of “We Will Rock You”. The title certainly fits the electrifying musical from the moment the auditorium is filled with smoke, strobe lights and the sound of the band striking up. The music (conducted by Jim Henson) rose deafening heights as the auditorium began to shake with the excitement of 26 of Queen’s hit songs. The popular songs fitted nicely with the storyline about two rebel outcasts in a technological future where real music has been replaced by auto tuned pop songs: it is there mission to save rock and bring back individuality to the Planet Mall and override the Killer Queen and the robotic GaGa kids.

The cast features a lot of well known faces: X Factor’s Rhydian, Hear’Say’s Noel Sullivan, Leon Lopez (Brookside), Jenny Douglas (BBC’s Over the Rainbow) and Ashley J Russell (BBC’s I’d Do Anything) supported by a high energy, slick, and good looking ensemble with dozens of West End credits between them, including the London and international casts of We Will Rock You. There’s not a sign of celebrity stunt casting in sight as each member of the company gives a solid five star performance.

The audience lapped up the vocals from the cast and the interval was full of “aren’t the vocals amazing?” comments. Tiffany Graves (as the Killer Queen) gave us riffs galore during her number “A Kind of Magic” whilst leading lady Amanda Coutts (as Scaramouche) sends shivers through the audience in her opening song “Somebody to Love”. Musical theatre people singing rock songs? Works a treat if you ask me, and just goes to show the versatility of these trained performers.

Full of modern references – characters called Britney Spears and Meat Loaf, numerous Facebook jokes, and cheeky digs at Simon Cowell and his X Factor empire – Ben Elton gives us a script that keeps the audience chuckling along nicely. Arlene Phillip’s original choreography is performed to perfection during the opening number “Radio GaGa” and is heightened by four LCD screens providing us the backdrop of a futuristic world.

The Press Night audience were even treated to a special performance from Queen band member Brian May, playing a exhilarating guitar solo in an encore of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Winner of the 2011 Olivier Audience Award, it is clear to see how the show has been selling out across the world since 2002. Even though this tour features a smaller scaled set from the original production it is still a visual feast and will continue to amaze audiences at the Birmingham Hippodrome for another five weeks. Get tickets now or you will be GaGa to miss it.

Visit the Birmingham Hippodrome site HERE for tickets.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

DKNY PR Girl Blog

Everyone's favourite New York PR twitterer recently launched a tumblr blog, for "when 140 characters isn't enough..."

Check out DKNY PR Girl's blog for all the chic gossip from Donna Karan and DKNY.

DKNY PR Girl's Blog

DKNY PR Girl's Twitter

Monday, 4 July 2011

Images Photography

This morning I went to get some new headshots taken by one of the Midlands tops photographers.

Images Photography have services for everyone, from weddings, to portraits, location shoots, family, gift packages etc.

Visit their website for more information:

Images Photography Website

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Birmingham Hippodrome - Exclusive Theatre Gossip!

The other week I got a general email from the Birmingham Hippodrome requesting people interested in getting involved writing reviews and blogging for the the theatre. I instantly hit the reply button telling them I would do anything they want me to... It worked!

Now I am a First Night Reviewer for the theatre. After our first meeting yesterday we already have lots of exciting plans ahead.

I'll be filming and blogging from their "Six Summer Saturdays" events which take place around the city for six Saturdays over the summer. Lots of events are taking place, which I get to go to an exciting preview of next week... I'll be sure to report on what to expect!

In the meantime check it out here...
Six Summer Saturday's Link

In addition to that, I'll be working with theatre to report back on some of their top shows including reviews from the Press Night of "We Will Rock You", all the gossip from the press launch of the UK Tour of "Dirty Dancing" and lots more...

The Hippodrome has it's own blog, letting you know what goes on behind the scenes which you can view HERE.

But, if you want all the extra gossip The City Dream's the place to be!

The City Dream is back!

The City Dream is back after a year or so of being idle, the blog is back to update the world on what's hot and happening in every city slicker's life.

Check back for lots of features including all the latest fashions, art advice, and my ramblings as a First Night Reviewer for the Birmingham Hippodrome!