ROY HUDD OBE

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Roy Hudd 16th May 1936- 15th March 2020

Here at IBY we were saddened to hear the news that Roy Hudd died peacefully yesterday. The world of Music Hall and Pantomime have lost a champion. As President of the British Music Hall Society, President of the Max Miller Appreciation Society, A member of the Grand Order Of Water Rats, Roy was the “Go to” authority on all things Music Hall, Variety and Pantomime.

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Roy and Debbie Hudd (Flitcroft) 2004

Roy was awarded the Order of The British Empire in 2004. As a veteran of Royal Command Performances, it was not his first time at the Palace- In fact he starred with Danny La Rue in “Danny At The Palace” in the ’70’s in their sell-out show!

Roy appeared in, or was connected with over Fifty Pantomimes in his career as Panto Comic, and latterly Pantomime Dame. He played Dame for the first time in at the age of 79 at Wilton’s Music Hall (in 2015) as Sarah The Cook. Not bad for a man who began in Show Business in 1957 at The Streatham Hill Theatre!

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As a young comic, Roy joined Butlin’s Holiday Camps as a Redcoat in 1958, his fellow Redcoats included (Sir) Cliff Richard and Dave Allen. By 1959 he made his solo debut on radio’s “Workers Playtime”. Many years later in 1978, in the resident Variety Company, I had a few fun “Late Night Cabaret” evenings at Butlin’s Filey supporting Roy in his Max Miller Acts. We provided the opening cockney routines, and then Roy took centre Stage.

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“Here’s a funny thing…”

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Chris Emmett, June Whitfield & Roy. 

By 1978 Roy was known for BBC Radio 2’s “The News Huddlines” which started in 1975. Chris Emmett joined Roy in this topical half hour show that was to become the longest running Radio series of its time. It ran from 1975 to 2001. Originally Janet Brown was on air, followed by Alison Steadman, with June Whitfield taking over from 1984 until it finished in 2001.

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I  met Roy again when I was involved in fund raising for Wilton’s Music Hall a short while after working with him at Butlins. Roy was a seasoned campaigner for this, wearing his “I’m A Friend Of Wiltons” badge when raising funds to restore this jewel in East London’s crown. It was apt then that Roy and Debbie decided that Wilton’s would be the chosen venue for Roy’s pantomime Dame Debut in “Dick Whittington” in 2015, and to repeat this success the following year in “Mother Goose” at Wilton’s.

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Roy with Amelia Rose Morgan at Wiltons Pantomime.Photo by Steve Ullathorne.

Roy wrote both Pantomimes, and Debbie Flitcroft Directed them at this historic venue. Roy said at the time “my model for Sarah The Cook is Mrs Shufflewick, for those who remember her. I shall just have one or two changes of costume. It saves on the washing, love”

In fact, Roy had a few more than two costumes. Designer Mark Hinton came up with some perfectly traditional costumes, and for two years I had the Autumnul joy of meeting Roy and Debbie at the costume store of The Kenneth More Theatre to select items to hire. I was truly honoured to be asked “Dame ” questions by Roy- from this veteran of over fifty pantos- “You’ve done this Dame lark a good few times. Do you think I should do a striptease?”. Debbie gave me a “Please no!” look and we moved swiftly on! Roy based his Dame not only on Mrs Shufflewick, but on his idol- Dan Leno. Roy always had a picture of the Greatest Mother Goose of all time on his dressing table, wherever he went.

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Mother Goose

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Dick Whittington

The Seventies were an incredible time for Roy Hudd. At the start of the decade he played the West End as Comic- giving his Max Miller Routine and Joining in Saloon Bar antics in sketches with Danny La Rue, and also by ’77 he was playing one of Dickens’s greatest villains- Fagin in “Oliver!” The Musical.

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Danny LaRue at the Palace was the hottest ticket in town in 1970. Danny was the highest paid entertainer at the time, and patrons of hisWest End nightclub could now see him in the magnificent Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. I loved this show, and saw it many times, but not as many times as Sherrie Hewson. Sherrie was at The RADA studying, and supplementing her income front of house at this show!

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Roy was Guest Star and did his own “Miller Act” and played the Ukelele, did a stand-up spot and joined Danny, David Ellen and Toni Palmer in sketches. I loved the Cowboy sketch the best, with Roy as a sharpshooter!

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Roy & Danny. (left) and with Toni Palmer (right)

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Reviewing The Situation- there for the grace of me going to a succesful Audition at the Albery Theatre, being offered a part in “Oliver!” and discovering my dates clashed and I wasn’t available- I could have worked with Roy once again. Roy played Fagin in Lionel Bart’s “Oliver!” with Joan Turner. I settled for playing piano at “Macreadies” actors club each night, and on a few occasions watching Joan forget to leave for “The Half”. Funny old world.

Underneath The Arches at The Prince Of Wales Theatre London in 1982 was a personal triumph for Roy. He co-wrote and played Bud Flanagan in this musical tailor made for his skills, his charm and his professionalism. It earned him the West End Theatres award for Best Actor in a Musical in 1983- Those awards are now known as “Oliviers”.

 

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Appearances on The Good Old Days, tours and variety seasons were always forerunners each year to Roy’s passion for Pantomime. He wrote them, in particular I loved seeing the Watford Pantos with Chris Emmett that he created- and seeing Roy and often Debbie in Panto around the country. His favourite subject to appear in was generally “Babes In The Wood”, and he played Idle Jack, as well as Buttons in “Cinderella”. There were so very many pantomimes as Comic before his debut as Dame! Here are just a few of those Pantomime Posters from a lifetime of performing!

His frequent fellow Panto pals on these journeys were Jack Tripp, Geoffrey Hughes, often Keith Barron, Bill Pertwee, and of course, June Whitfield.

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Roy with June and With Debbie

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My thanks to Ian Howells for his help with the Pantomime Posters.

Roy wrote several books- I have all of them on my shelves- my favourites are Roy Hudd’s Cavalcade of Variety Acts, His book on Music Hall, Variety and Showbiz anecodotes , and his Music Hall collections.

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He was on Celebrity Mastermind in 2014 answering questions on Dan Leno. His knowledge of things past was astonishing. In 2008 he played the Title role in “The Wizard Of Oz”at The Royal Festival Hall, and over a long career appeared in countless television programmes including his own- The Roy Hudd Show, and “The Illustrated Weekly Hudd”. He made appreances in Broadchurch, Benidorm, Holby City, Ashes To Ashes, Lipstick On Your Collar by Dennis Potter as well as New Tricks, Call The Midwife- The list goes on and on.

One of his recent accolades was being given the Lifetime Achievement Award at The Great British Pantomime Awards at Wimbledon Theatre.

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Music Hall was his love and his life, Pantomime was also his passion. Television viewers will always remember Archie Shuttleworth in “Coronation Street” – from 2002 to 2010 , as well as his repertoire of characters in plays, from Priestley to Wilde. As recently as 2019 he appeared alongside Liza Goddard and Isla Blair in “A Woman Of No Importance”.

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Roy was a man of real importance. A towering genius of a man who, as everyone will tell you, was one hell of a nice bloke.Our thoughts and love go out to Debbie and family. So proud to have known you Roy- as you said as Max Miller- “There’ll never be another!”

 

 

 

 

The Grand Old Dame Of York 2020

 

ME BABBIES, ME BAIRNS! BERWICK IS BACK! THE LEGENDARY BERWICK KALER STARS IN DICK TURPIN RIDES AGAIN AT GRAND OPERA HOUSE FOR CHRISTMAS 2020

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Grand Opera House are delighted to announce York legend Berwick Kaler will be bulk-buying Wagon Wheels, dusting off his frocks and making his much-anticipated, triumphant return to pantomime to star in Dick Turpin Rides Again this Christmas!

The star of pantomime in York for 40 years, Berwick’s critically acclaimed performance as dame has solidified his reputation as a true York institution having delighted generations of festive theatre goers every year, winning rave reviews from critics and audiences taking him to their hearts. Dick Turpin Rides Again marks his first pantomime at the Grand Opera House.

Dick Turpin Rides Again also reunites Berwick with his band of pantomime regulars, including comedy side-kick Martin Barrass, the villainous David Leonard, Yorkshire’s longest-serving Principal Girl Suzy Cooper and favourite funny man AJ Powell. Berwick will also write and direct the production.

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This year’s Grand Opera House pantomime will be produced by Scarborough and London based Qdos Entertainment for the very first time, the world’s biggest pantomime producer, and the Olivier Award winning team behind pantomimes across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and at the world famous London Palladium each Christmas. Dick Turpin Rides Again will feature Qdos Entertainment’s hallmark of high-quality production values and special effects, whilst staying faithful to Berwick’s renowned approach to the genre and to local York audiences.

Qdos Entertainment Managing Director Michael Harrison said: I have long admired Berwick’s pantomimes – in fact his own brand of pantomime madness was the inspiration behind the shows I have created at both Newcastle Theatre Royal and The London Palladium. Little did I realise when I was watching Berwick’s shows that one day I’d be able to work with him and his team on a York pantomime.

This deal has come together very quickly between Berwick, Martin, David, Suzy, AJ, ourselves and the Grand Opera House because first and foremost we all love pantomime – and what a panto this one is going to be. I couldn’t be happier to be able to announce that Dick Turpin will indeed ride again as will Berwick and his legendary team.”

Qdos Entertainment Chairman, Scarborough based Nick Thomas MBE, added, “I am thrilled to welcome Berwick, a true Yorkshire theatre legend, to the Qdos Family. Qdos Entertainment has had a long association with Yorkshire, it is my home county, and with our production and wardrobe teams based in Scarborough and Beverley, forming this new relationship with Berwick and the Grand Opera House is especially exciting”.

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Having made his York pantomime debut as Ugly Sister in Cinderella in 1977, Berwick has performed, written and directed panto in the city ever since, calling out his iconic catchphrase ‘me babbies, me bairns’ and met with adoration from local audiences at every performance.

A star of the stage since he left his native Sunderland as a teenager, Berwick has been a mainstay in theatre ever since, appearing in London’s West End and regionally, making television appearances in iconic comedies such as The New Statesman and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and even featuring in the Hollywood blockbuster A Knight’s Tale. In 2012 he was featured in Michael Grade’s acclaimed documentary A History of the Pantomime Dame, which was aired on BBC Four.

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Speaking on his casting Berwick Kaler said: “Qdos Entertainment have come to the rescue of the most lauded pantomime in the country having found us a new home at the Grand Opera House in our beloved City of York. To make this a success we need you – the most articulate and loyal audience in the entire country. We can go forth with a management that believes we have enhanced the reputation of a local pantomime that has caught the imagination of young and old, from all walks of life.”

Grand Opera House York’s Theatre Director, Rachel Crocombe-Lane, adds: ‘Qdos brings both worldclass expertise and also a Yorkshire heart, being based in Scarborough; the perfect combination together with this talented cast. As a venue team, Pantomime is our favourite time of year because of the friendship with the company and also the joy and devotion of our audience. We are proud of these new partnerships, excited for the future of our Pantomime and will be ready altogether to really blow your Christmas socks off!’

Dick Turpin Rides Again will play at Grand Opera House from Saturday 12 December until Sunday 10 January 2021, with tickets going on sale for ATG Theatre Card holders from Tuesday 11 February, and on sale generally from Friday 14 February. Berwick Kaler will be making a personal appearance at the theatre Box Office as it goes on sale at 10am, and will sell the first tickets to the show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cardiff New Theatre Memories

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Recent news was that HQ Theatres, a division of Qdos have taken a 25 year lease on The New Theatre Cardiff!. This beautiful 110 year old building seats around 1,144  and for twenty years has been the home of a Qdos pantomime.

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It was at “The New” that Peter Robbins and I had a wonderful season in “Cinderella” in 1990 with Windsor Davies and Dame Hilda Bracket (Patrick Fyffe) that transferred to Leeds Grand , and carried on through February.

As a Swansea lad my theatre jobs were in Cardiff from the 1970’s- I did plays at “The New” and childrens shows, including “Toad Of Toad Hall” , directed by Martin Williams, the manager who sadly died a young man, and left a legacy of splendid shows produced “in house” there. I worked at The Sherman Theatre, and The Open Air Theatre,The WNO Drama Company, and Chapter Arts, but it was the splendid New Theatre that was the jewel in Cardiff’s crown and at that time home of the Welsh National Opera.

The most recent Qdos Panto “Cinderella” finished on 12th January 2020.

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Here are just a few random posters of previous Pantomimes at Cardiff.

 

Recently the Facebook site “Pantoland” featured some photographs that Mike Chalmers took of past productions framed backstage and front of house at the Theatre. I am very grateful for his permission to repeat these snapshots here. Sadly the collection of “Finale” photos is incomplete, but hopefully more will be discovered an added as FOH is refurbished soon.

Here they are  – There are familiar faces I can spot, and I wonder how many you can recognise!I’ve just jotted a few names down from memory!Please feel free to add to the faces by email to info@its-behind-you.com should you wish!

Mike Doyle appears as Dame is very many of these Pantomimes, joining the local Dames and Sisters who played The New, including Wyn Calvin, Ceri DuPree, myself, (Nigel Ellacott) and adopted local Dames, like Ronne Coyles.

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Samantha Womack, Gareth Thomas, Chico, Mike Doyle, Tam Ryan, Stephanie Webber

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David Hasslehoff, Mike Doyle

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Gareth Thomas, Ian H Watkins, Linda Lusardi, Mike Doyle,Sam Kane, Mark Llewellyn Evans & Holly Bluett

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Lee Mead. Linda Lusardi, Gareth Thomas (and Colm Tracey u/s) Andy Jones, Mike Doyle, Sam Kane, Holly Bluett.

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Julian Clary, Mike Doyle

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Joe Pasquale. Ceri DuPree

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Brian Conley, Dawson Chance, Brian Godfrey

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Lesley Joseph

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John Barrowman

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Danny La Rue & Dave Benson Phillips.

There is a gap of unframed pictures- here is 1984

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Stu Francis, Anna Karen

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1983 the hugely lavish Humpty Dumpty: Keith Harris, Ronne Coyles as Dame.

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1980 Dickie Henderson.

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Roy Hudd.

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The Stan Stennett Years- almost a repertory company of familiar faces.

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1973 Brian Rix, The King of Whitehall Farce.

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Harry Worth 1972

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takepART 2020 Venue Cymru

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I had the great pleasure of being a part of takepART last weekend at the vast Venue Cymru in Llandudno.  Just twelve days after finishing “Sleeping Beauty” there, it was a train journey back to once again become Myfanwy, Queen Of Deganwy!

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Queen Myfanwy with Lord Mostyn in the opening ceremony!

Wales’ largest Creative Arts and Science Festival is held each year in Venue Cymru. Every available space is used to house workshops, events, performances and places for kids from 0-18 to literally take part in creating or discovering something.

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A montage of just a few of the things on offer over two days.

The vast Arena was used to house a Roller Rink, The Welsh National Opera Tunnel Installation with interactive creatures from the Opera “The Cunning Little Vixen” popping up to greet you. Inside this massive space you could find Magic Light’s Puppet Theatre- Black light/UV Puppets not only demonstrated in a show, but there to be picked up and played with.

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Stuart Loughland, Nigel & Libby Edwards- The stars of The Colwyn Bay Pantomime are both Magic Light Productions and Safire- illusionists, plus good mates!

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Still within the Arena was Vertical Dancing, using ropes and harnesses to teach you to walk on walls, alongside Make a Mini Sea Monster, and a fascinating Gadget that when you colour in a fish on a piece of paper, it is scanned and comes to life in a 3D Aquarium! (I did this one twice- it really captured the artist in me!)

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The Pirate in this picture is Famous children’s illustrator Johnny Duddle- he of Harry Potter Fame, signing the books and running Workshops on Pirates and Dinosaurs!

Still in The Arena there was a large Performing Space, as well as many other workshops, a soft play area, and clog dancing.

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A popular area (certainly with me!) was the Therapy Dogs area. Bojangles the Terrier is the meeter and greeter for this organisation. The cartoon above is by Harry Venning. Harry is my favourite cartoonist. He created “Hamlet” in the “Stage Newspaper” each week. Its wicked and topical and, unlike the dogs here, biting! Harry ran his “Release Your Inner Cartoonist” workshops here on both days!

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Bojangles in the Therapy Dogs section Ground Floor.

My Royal Walk-abouts filled in a lot of the time- from 10am -5pm on Saturday and 10-4pm Sunday. In between visiting all areas, I compered the Take To The Stage Variety Show in the Theatre Auditorium (Where we did The “Sleeping Beauty” Pantomime.)

The show featured local talents- The Rock Project, The Pearl Shaw School of Performing Arts (Our Junior Dancers in both pantomimes here), Barton Dance & Drama Academy and amazing illusions from Safire, international Illusionists.

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Just a few of the hundreds of workshops and activities at takepART 2020. Aardman Model Making Workshops, Harry Potter Events, The Royal Ballet’s Workshops on “Alice In Wonderland”- Make up sessions with Zoe Ellen, Storytelling, Space Explorers and a whole vast room dedicated to Space, with Professor Planet- The list is endless!

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The Cutting Of The Ribbon!

Over these two packed days, this year 11,500 people- mainly young people took part! You can see the size of the building- here it is (as designed by Architect Aidan Ridyard, who held his Create A New Llandudno Workshops ). It is vast!

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Every space became a place to join in, explore, watch, take part throughout two full days- and all FREE OF CHARGE! The Conwy Arts Trust funds this two day explosion of education and activities and during the Panto we held collections for this. During the two days here contributions were gratefully received so that next year can continue from strength to strength.

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My personal highlight was being captured on paper by the incredibly talented Harry Venning- these two cartoons of me are taking pride of place!

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Harry Venning draws Queen Myfanwy!

There are many other events to mention, from Pobwyl Y Cwm’s stars – it is one of the longest running “Soaps” in the country, second to Coronation Street- meeting their fans, through to Take A Poem, Create A Puppet, (Punch and Judy appeared in the foyer courtesy of Magic Light Puppets), Game Developers Workshop, Weaving, Archeology, Origami, Singing Workshops, Lion King & Mary Poppins Workshops..Only Boys Aloud singing on the staircase, A Radio Station, A pack of Junior Reporters touring every hour, and Paul Sampson leading a Pap Pack of young photographers- A truly magical and amazing event.

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John Evans Returns to Venue Cymru Next Panto. Here is his Understudy!

So, a huge thank you to the Venue Cymru Team and staff and army of volunteers- To Keith for running the Variety Show in the Auditorium- Here he is mid show!

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Keith running the corner.

Finally a huge thank you to Theatre Manager Sarah Ecob. She and her team ran the two days like clockwork. If there was a gap it was filled. If there was a queue, it was lessened- Sarah and her team worked non stop to create this very speacial event. Thank you so much for allowing me to takepART!

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Backstage At Birmingham!

 

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The Final Night of “Snow White” 2020 at Birmingham Hippodrome . I joined Andrew Ryan and the cast of the Panto to help with Andrew’s “Get-Out”, as he has helped me many times in the past!

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Andrew Ryan as Nanny Annie Asprin

The Get-Out was swift, as I was packing away costumes, wigs and shoes as Adam Starr was dressing Andrew for the next entrance. These will return to our store mid week, joining my costumes from Llandudno’s panto to be sorted, cleaned and put away!

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The Magnificent Seven!

On the Friday the Hippodrome and Qdos threw a Wrap Party for this and other Qdos Pantos- each and every one “The Fairest In The Land”. Hosted by Nick & Sandra Thomas and Michael and Kathryn Harrison, with Jonathan Kiley, Ed Curtis, Adrian LeSurf, Jess Hicks, Mark Jones, Jake Hinde, Innis Robertson-The Qdos Lounge was heaving with Panto folk from all over the country-Choreographers Alan & Sharon Harding, Panto performers from Alan Stewart with Jane (Dannielle) Stewart, and Alan McHugh from the Scottish Pantomimes, to Paul Zerdin and Martin Hinkins and Paul Bouchier from The Palladium, through Brian & Ann Marie Conley (Plymouth) Chris Hayward, and Dan Russell, Clive Webb and some of the Newcastle Company, Chris Biggins from Bromley, joining in with

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Ceri Dupree from Cardiff Panto, Gary & Yvonne Hind, David Bownes, Tracey Lane, , James McCullough,Jack Land Noble and Alexandra Burke (popping in from The Bodyguard Next Door!) along with many many more I didnt manage to speak to during the evening!

The Evenings “Blooming Apple” awards were hosted by Lucy Westernidge and Jamie John. The Speeches by Michael Harrison.

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Nigel, Andrew, Chris & Dan

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George & Gill

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George & Andrew

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Lesley & Joe before the party

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Faye, Jac, Lesley & Joe with Tracey Lane & Sharon Harding

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Adam, Nigel & Gill. Lesley and Brian Conley

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Lesley & “her from Next Door” -from The Alexandra Theatre, Alexandra Burke.

 

Below- Halfway through the Panto Run…..

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At the time of writing The Birmingham Pantomime is still in full swing, and just over half way through!

Recently the Palladium finished its run, and there are a few Pantomimes running across the UK, and this spectacular production is going until February 2nd. With Palladium scenery and costumes and some fabulous effects, its well worth the trip if you’ve not seen it yet- lavish, spectacular and very very funny!

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Here, courtesy of photographer SIMON HADLEY and The Hippodrome is a glimpse of backstage during the run recently. Starting with Joe McElderry as The Spirit of The Mirror.

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Lesley Joseph prepares for her first entrance

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Lesley plays The Wicked Queen Dragonella.

The first version of “Snow White” at The Hippodrome was in 1975. It was an Aubrey Phillips touring panto with Charles Hawtrey as Muddles.It returned to the Hippodrome in 1977.  I replaced Charles Hawtrey when the show panto played the Rhyl Summer Season three months later!

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Andrew Ryan does a wig check ready to play Nanny Annie Asprin in his magic mirror.

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The Dame is ready to join the rest of the staff, Muddles and Lady In Waiting, Doreen.

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The next production of Snow White here was The Paul O’Grady version in 1999-2000. Paul O’Grady appeared as The Wicked Queen in the guise of Lily Savage. The Duchess Of Dudley, the wonderful Lizzie Wiggins played The Nurse.

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Waiting In The Wings! 

The next production of “Snow White” was in 2013-2014 when Matt Slack made his Hippodrome debut. This year will be Matt’s seventh consecutive Hippodrome Panto appearance on this the Hippo’s 120th year!

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Matt Slack appears as Muddles

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This year’s Qdos “Snow White” is Produced and Directed by Michael Harrison, The assistant Director is Tracy Lane. The Show is Choreographed by Alan Hardin, assisted by Sharon Harding. The Musical Director as always is Robert Willis- there is a six piece orchestra- Malcolm Garrett on drums has been in every pantomime at The Hippodrome for almost thirty years!

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Craig Garner gets ready to open the show, along with the rest of the “Magnificent Seven”, Josh Bennett, George Coppen, Greg Doherty, Simeon Dyer, Jamie John and Blake Lisle.

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Jamie having a laugh!

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The Ensemble at The Hippodrome are Stephen Alexander- I was in “Aladdin” at Venue Cymru with Stephen a few years back, he has recently been at The Moulin Rouge in Paris. Joining him are Aaron Barker, Joshua Cantrill, Charley Da Silva, Lucy Keenan, Lauren Key, Joseph Malana, Elysia Pemberton, Luke Redford and Laura Watson.

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Preparing for another routine, with gorgeous Palladium costumes.

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Grin and bear it!

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The  Evil Magic Spell is cast!

The Role of Prince Harry (hugely topical; at the moment of writing this!) is played by Jac Yarrow. Jac was recently starring at The London Palladium- his professional debut- as Joseph, alongside Jason Donovan. Jac is from Cardiff,, hailing from South Wales.

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Jac Yarrow as Prince Harry

Snow White often has a Dame, and sometimes the Dame is The Nurse. Here at the Hippo the Queen has a very lazy lady  in waiting- The first person ever to be diagnosed with Lazy Cow Syndrome- Doreen Tipton ! The Queen Of The Black Country Doreen sells out Theatres- a YouTube sensation, she will be touring her one woman show through the West Midlands- if she can be bothered!

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Doreen Tipton- the lazy lady in waiting

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The Finale

The Queen’s Guard are Flawless- one of the UK’s hottest dance acts, launched on Britain’s Got Talent- they even have their own school The Flawless Dance School headed by founder Marlon Warren. Flawless are Marlon Warren, Christian Alozie, Dominic Hutchinson, Toby Jackman, Jeffrey Felicisimo, Mike McNeish, Stefan Sinclair and Bradley Charles.

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Flawless!

The Title Role belongs to Faye Brookes– known to millions as Kate Connor in Coronation Street. No stranger to being a Princess, Faye has played Princess Jasmine in Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty and Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical!

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Faye Brookes watching from the wings

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Its behind you! Oh yes it is! No Panto is complete without The Ghost Gag!

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This stunning Pantomime is running until February 2nd and is one of the Fairest In The Land at this moment- twice daily at the Birmingham Hippodrome, lighting designed by Ben Cracknell, with Musical Supervision by Gary Hind, special effects by The Twins FX, and a sound design by Tom Marshall. The Wardrobe created by Qdos with speciality Costumes by Mike Coltman, and the projection design by Duncan McLean.

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The Fairest Panto In All The Land written by Alan McHugh and Matt Slack. 21st December 2019- 2nd February 2020.

A Postscript! This week Dame Andrew Made did a make-over on TV Chef  Glynn Purnell, as he swapped his kitchen for PantolandMatt Slack was at hand to teach Glynn some panto tongue twisters!

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Glynn commented “thanks to the honed skills of Andrew Ryan and Matt Slack, I have realised a dream of mine I never knew I had, to become Birmingham’s bearded Brummie Dame!”

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Andrew was invited to attend the make-over of the Bullring Bull- a twice life size bronze by Laurence Broderick, symbol (or symbull!) of the Bullring Centre. For a day it became a Panto Dame!

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The panto continues until February 2nd 2020.

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MICHAEL HARRISON’S 40th

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The Qdos extended family got together to wish Qdos Panto producer and Managing Director Michael Harrison a very Happy 40th Birthday! The Family affair began when guests arriving at the Ham Yard Hotel Soho were greeted by Michael and Kathryn Harrison and four year old son Alfie.

Bar Bowling Buffet cinema

The Party occupied a complete floor of this boutique hotel, with its own private bowling alley, two bars and a cinema! During the evening the cinema showed Pantomime of course, at its very finest, and the champagne flowed as we dined, wined, bowled and raised our glasses in a toast- made by Nigel Havers, Palladium stalwart that he is, to Michael’s 40th!

There are official and glossy photographs to be released, but for the time being, here are some pics from various phones!

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Kathryn Harrison, Brian Conley & Brian May (not a new double act.. yet) Ann-Marie Conley, Amy Potts and Anita Dobson

The Cabaret for the evening was the sensational Drifters- Michael Harrison will be presenting Beverley Knight as the star of a new musical about this iconic group. A treasured memory will be of Elaine C Smith and Imelda Staunton bopping away to “Under The Boardwalk” – a magical moment!

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Jess Knight,  Beverley Knight and Dan

 

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Panto stars, mates and Pals at the Party! 

Chris Hayward, Dan Russell,Lee Batty, Jess Knight, Paul Zerdin, Matt Slack

I spent a lovely evening catching up with Panto mates from way back. Great to chat to Paul and Linda Elliott, catch up with Brian and Ann-Marie Conley, with Alan Stewart, Andy Gra, Biggins and The Fabulous Jeanette & Ian (Tough) – The Krankies! These among many many folk I chatted to until the champagne took hold and I struggled to remember my name! Carriages (or Ubers as they now are) were at 2am.

The worlds of Musicals and Pantomimes were well represented, as well as creatives, choreographers, directors, producers, lighting designers, executive producers and theatre managers. Every aspect of the Biz that is Show was there to say “Happy Birthday”.

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Kathryn & Brian, Ann-Marie and another Brian!

Michael’s shows in the West End (and a good few Worldwide),have included Bodyguard ,Gypsy, Mrs Henderson Presents, Young Frankenstein, Fiddler On The Roof, Annie and Joseph at the London Palladium- returning next year.

The room had many of the casts and creatives from these shows. David Ian was among the guests tonight- David ( like Jonathan Kiley trod the Kenneth More Theatre boards in Panto, Once Upon A Time!) has co produced shows with Michael that include Sunset Boulevard and the recent Benidorm Live tour of the UK.

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Brian,Joe Pasquale and Gok Wan.

Gok was guest DJ tonight, Nigel Havers was speech maker, and the rest of the Palladium’s panto casts from the past few years were out in force- Julian Clary, Dawn French, Gary Wilmot, Paul Zerdin, Emma Williams to name but a few. This year of course it is the Qdos London Palladium production of “Goldilocks & The Three Bears” that takes the centre stage, presented by Qdos founder and Chairman Nick Thomas MBE.

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Mick and Sandra Thomas (joint owners of Qdos) were celebrating, along with a huge number of their Qdos Pantomime Family.

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Brian and Andrew Ryan. Nigel Havers gives the Birthday Toast!

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Dan, Anne Galbraith,Christine and Chris.

The champagne continued, the buffet was served (“The “T” in buffet is silent. Really? Not when I drink it…” apologies to Dan Leno for that gag) the bowling went apace, we heard the Drifters live and Gok’s discs were spinning- It really was a Swell Party- Thank you Michael Harrison and Happy Birthday!

Here’s a VERY rough guest list with dozens of omissions- from memory! Apologies to those I’ve missed out- there was a lot of Moet!- The list in absolutely no particular order!

Michael. Kathryn and Alfie Harrison

Nick & Sandra Thomas

Paul & Linda Elliott

David and Tracy Ian

Clive Webb and Ann,  Danny Adams and Amy Potts.

Phil Hoffman

Elaine  C Smith

GokWan

Joe Pasquale

Ed Curtis

Beverley Knight

Brian & Anne Marie Conley

Jeanette and Ian Tough

Imelda Staunton

Dawn French and Mark Bignell

Paul and Linda Elliott

Julian Clary & Ian Mackley

Christopher Biggins

Chris Hayward  and Dan Russell

Ceri DuPree

Annie Galbraith

Allan Stewart & Jayne Danielle

Nigel Ellacott

Andrew Ryan

Andy Grey

Grant Stott

Gareth Owen

Nigel Havers

Paul Bouchier

Martin Hinkins

David & Sallie McNeil

Darry Black and Stuart Griffith

Gary & Yvonne Hind

Marc SherWood

Jonathan Kiley

Gary Wilmot

Adam Renton

Phil Dale

John Bowles

Michael Gingell

Anne Smith

The Drifters

Matt slack – and Jess

Mark jones

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Anita Dobson and Brian May

Alan and Sharon Harding

David Ian and Tracie Laine

Jamie Taylor

Jake Hine

Paul Zerdin

Stillie Dee

Jason Donovan

Paul and Gary Twins

Innis Robertson

Jac Yarrow

Barry Burnett

Chris agent to Matt

Alan McHugh

Jordan Young

Steve Arnot

Emma Newton Williams and James Newton

 

 

 

Birmingham Panto Launch!

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Monday 16th September 2019

Today saw the Qdos “Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs” Pantomime launch at the Hippodrome Birmingham.

This is the London Palladium production with all the fabulous scenery, costumes and effects, and a stellar cast assembled for the run. It opens Saturday 21st December and runs through to Sunday 2nd February, two shows a day.

Producer and Director Michael Harrison together with Fiona Shaw, CEO and Artistic Director of the Hippodrome launched the panto today with an invited audience of Group Bookers and Friends of The Hippodrome attending events.Adrian LeSurf, Head of Marketing for Qdos was on hand to oversee the launch.

Meet The Cast!

Lesley Joseph returns to the Hippodrome to star as The Wicked Queen.

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Lesley Joseph enthroned at the Hippodrome.

Here’s an interview with Lesley from the launch:

Lesley first did Pantomime at The “Hippo” in 1991. This year she has been working non stop since finishing the run of “Young Frankenstein” in The West End, “Cinderella” at Bromley, and going straight into the tour of Calendar Girls, and overlapping into the tour of “Annie”. She will be enthroned at The Hippodrome for the six week season!

Matt Slack is a Hippodrome favourite. This will be his seventh consecutive Pantomime here in Birmingham. It was great to see Matt in the Summer when The Hippodrome Celebrated 125 years, and we enjoyed a full evening’s entertainment (and a great meal on stage) hosted by Matt. It has been seven years since Matt did his first appearance in “Snow White ” here at The Hippodrome- he is now a Hippo Regular!

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Matt Slack giving the Kiss Of Life a few centuries too late!

Here’s the launch interview with Matt on Celebrity Radio:

Playing the part of “The Spirit of the Mirror” is X Factor Winner Joe McElderry. Joe has spent most of this year starring in “Club Tropicana” the Musical playing Garry the Club Rep. It began touring in January in Bromley, and finished in Cardiff at the end of August. Joe is currently on his concert tour until rehearsals begin.

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Joe McElderry – Spirit of The Magic Mirror

Here’s Joe’s interview on Panto Launch Day:

The Title role is played by Coronation Street’s Faye Brookes. Faye is known for her role as Kate Connor in Coronation Street. She has toured with “Legally Blonde” The Musical as well as “Grease” and “Shrek”. Here’s Faye’s interview on the day:

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Faye Brookes- hopefuly not hungry right now!

The Queen Of The Black Country- self styled “Lazy Cow” Doreen Tipton is demoted to Lady In Waiting to the Wicked Queen this year at the Hippodrome. Youtube sensation Doreen leaves her daughters Trojan, Tangerine and Trollop behind in Wolverhampton tp join this year’s cast of “Snow White.

 

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Doreen Tipton- Midlands Icon!

Returning to the Birmingham Hippodrome for the fourth time as Dame is Andrew Ryan.

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Andrew Ryan plays Nanny Annie Asprin!

Andrew was here previously in “Dick Whittington” with John Barrowman and The Krankies, and before that in “Aladdin” with Marti Pellow and Julian Clary. Andrew appeared at the Hippodrome in “Robinson Crusoe” in 2012 with Brian Conley and Lesley Joseph. This is Andrew’s fifth Panto appearing with Lesley- Last year he Directed Lesley in “Cinderella” at Bromley.This is his Third panto with Matt Slack!

Here’s Andrew’s interview on Celebrity Radio along with Jac Yarrow in the studio.

Jac Yarrow arrived for today’s launch direct from winning the Joe Allen Best West End Debut Award for his role as Joseph in “Joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat” at The London Palladium. Producer Michael Harrison selected Jac to play Joseph while he was still at Arts Educational School. He finished the run of Joseph (for THIS year!)at the Palladium just in time to graduate from Arts Ed.

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Jac Yarrow fresh from winning the Joe Allen Best West End Debut award for “Joseph”

Michael Harrison hosted the cast interviews in the Patrick Centre at the Hippodrome in front of an invited audience, with a lively Q&A session. Photocalls, press interviews and media moments organised by Adrian LeSurf, followed by an autograph signing and selfie session- A great day out at the Hippodrome!

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Joining the cast for the Pantomime season this year will be Flawless from Britain’s Got Talent, and of course, no Snow White Panto could be complete without the Seven Dwarfs and a full ensemble of singer/dancers to complete this epic production!

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