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Circus 1903

…Experience all the thrills and daredevil entertainment of a turn-of-the-century circus when Circus 1903 rolls into Birmingham Hippodrome this October half term. The show includes sensational life-sized elephants stunningly…

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Members offers

First Night sm 

First Night offers – available to 16-24 year olds

Show

Offer

Performances

Price Bands

Grease The Musical  £16 Tues 13th & 20th. Mon 19th C – D
West Side Story £15 Thurs 29th A-B
On Your Feet £18 Tues to Thur mat & ev D
Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet £16 Tues C
Blood Brothers £22 Mon 30th C
Some Like It Hip Hop £11 Fri & Sat mat & ev All
Circus 1903 £12 Fri C-D
Acosta Danza £6 Mon & Tues mat & ev C
Snow White Pantomime £6 2nd Jan to 2nd Feb mat & ev B-D
We Will Rock You £38.50 Mon 20th C-D
Les Miserables 2020 £15 Mon ev’s D

 

     PatronsH(vrs9)FINAL 

Patrons and Friends ticket offers

All discounts are subject to availability 2-for-1 on Opening Night
Price Bands A+/A-C only unless otherwise stated
Standard Discount
£5 off Price A+/A, £6 off B-D
Grease The Musical Sorry, not available ✔ £5 off A+/A, £6 off B-C, Mon – Thu. Limited availability
West Side Story ✔ Thu & Fri Sorry, not available
On Your Feet! ✔ £10 off ✔  Tue – Thu
Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet ✔ £10 off ✔  Wed – Thu
Fantasia ✔ All performances Sorry, not available
Blood Brothers ✔ £10 off ✔ £5 off A+/A, £4 off B, £3 off C, Tue – Fri & Mon
Eye of the Storm ✔ All performances Sorry, not avaiable
Dada Masilo – Giselle ✔ Both performances Sorry, not available
Some Like it Hip Hop ✔ All performances Sorry, not available
YOOO!!! ✔ All performances (A only) Sorry, not available
Circus 1903 ✔ £10 off ✔  Tue – Fri
Acosta Danza ✔ Both performances ✔ £5 off A+/A, £4 off B, £3 off C, Both performances
This Filthy World – John Waters  ✔ £10 off A Sorry, not available
Genius ✔ Both performances Sorry, not available
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ✔ Sat 21 Dec & Yellow performances ✔ All performances
Extraordinary Wall [of Silence] ✔ Both performances Sorry, not available
The Red Shoes ✔ £10 off ✔  Tue – Thu
Message in a Bottle ✔ £10 off ✔  Wed – Fri
Priscilla Queen of the Desert ✔ £10 off ✔  Tue – Thu
We Will Rock You ✔ £10 off ✔ £6 off A, £5 off B-C, Mon – Thu
MAMMA MIA! ✔ £10 off ✔  Mon – Thu
Les Miserables ✔ £10 off ✔  £4 off A/A+ and £6 off B-D
Mon to Thu
SIX ✔ £10 off Wed & Fri 6pm ✔  Tue & Thu 8pm
Sister Act ✔ £10 off ✔  Tue – Fri

 

Please note, all offers are subject to restrictions and limited availability; they cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or applied retrospectively. We reserve the right to withdraw discounts at any time. Terms and conditions apply. First Night tickets must be booked by registered individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 inclusive. Proof of entitlement will be required for all tickets. Please note: Friends & Patrons discounts are subject to restrictions and limited availability; they cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or applied retrospectively. We reserve the right to withdraw discounts at any time. Terms and conditions apply.

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Heritage Project

Birmingham Hippodrome has helped make and shape memorable theatre moments for generations of visitors.

Since our opening as the Tower of Varieties and Circus in 1899 we have had a fascinating history, with many changes to the building and the kind of events taking place here over the last 118 years. From crocodile wrestling to The Lion King, there have been variety acts, circus and major touring musicals performed on our stage.

Through the Hippodrome Heritage project, our fantastic volunteer team are bringing our dynamic and diverse history to life!

Take a look at the exciting opportunities below and find out how you can get involved:


Behind the Scenes Tours

Discover the world behind the curtain and gain access to parts of the theatre that are usually off limits to the public. The tour includes a visit to the royal box, access to rehearsal studios, and the loading bay where our spectacular stagesets arrive.

Our knowledgeable Heritage Guides and Visitor Services Assistants will share captivating stories from the theatre’s past and present and invite guests to take a sneak peek at the archive collection. An experienced Technical Guide will also be on hand to explain just what it takes to get a show onto our stage.

Tours take place at 10.30am & 11am on the first Saturday of each month

Tour only £8
Tour, hot drink, sandwich + cake £15.50

BOOK NOW! 


Heritage Talks

Roll up, roll up to hear fantastic tales of the shows and stars that have performed at Birmingham Hippodrome. See how the building was transformed from a circus into one of the UK’s biggest stages.

For a small donation, our fantastic Heritage Volunteers can provide a general overview of the 118 years of colourful history at the Hippodrome or develop a talk around a specific theme for your society or group.

We can cater for any size group either at the Hippodrome or at a different local venue. If offsite, our team will bring a sample from our archive collection.

Please email archive@birminghamhippodrome.com to discuss your requirements.


Oral Histories

Everyone has their own story to tell and share. This collection of oral history recordings is drawn from theatregoers, performers and the people behind the scenes who make shows happen and help the theatre run smoothly. 

Listen to memories which take you on a journey from the 1940s to today.

LISTEN NOW! 


Hippodrome Heritage Website

The Hippodrome Heritage archive has been drawn from many sources including the theatre’s own collection, private individuals and early material held by The Library of Birmingham.

On the Birmingham Hippodrome Heritage website, audiences can explore a historic collection of memorabilia including programmes, photographs, tickets, newspaper articles and documents spanning the theatre’s vibrant past. Travel along our timeline or search for your favourite show or star.

Look out for our regular Hidden Hippodrome blogs too.


Making a donation to our archive collection

Do you have Birmingham Hippodrome memorabilia?

We are still collecting items which help tell the story of Birmingham Hippodrome and need your help!

You can download our Heritage Collection Donation Policy here. This outlines our policy for donations of materials and what we are able accept.  If you have any queries please contact archive@birminghamhippodrome.com


Supported by:

HLFHI_BLK

We still welcome donations for our ongoing collecting, research and preservation of our collection through our dedicated Heritage Volunteers.  Contact Fundraising Manager Rachael Magson to find out how you can help rachaelmagson@birminghamhippodrome.com  or call 0121 689 3067.


 

 

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Horse Power at the Hippodrome

Hippodrome Heritage volunteer, Ivan Heard shares the historic relationship between Birmingham Hippodrome and horses…

Did you know that the name of our theatre comes from an ancient Greek word for a stadium for horse and chariot racing? Birmingham Hippodrome has therefore had a long association with horses, currently epitomised so brilliantly and emotionally with the current production of War Horse. Last staged here in our record-breaking year of 2013, the production has been seen in 11 countries by over 2 million people.

It was on 9 October 1899 that two Birmingham bookies, James and Henry Draysey, opened here the Tower of Varieties and Circus. On the opening night’s programme were Cliffe Berzac and his Wrestling and Boxing Pony, and the two Clarke Brothers, whom the Birmingham “Owl” journal described as “exceedingly able” bare-back horse riders.

Sadly, the venture failed after five weeks but even in its final week, an “unrideable” donkey was featured, with a £5 prize if you could ride it three times around the circus ring! Undeterred, the Drayseys altered the interior of the building, turning it into a traditional theatre,which they re-opened on 20 August, 1900 as the Tivoli Theatre of Varieties- we became the Hippodrome in 1903. On the opening bill was Felix de Marce with his Performing Baboons and Ponies, and two acts later was his wife Mdlle Irma Orbasany with her “Wonderful Performing Cockatoos”. Imagine the logistics of finding new board and lodgings every week for that menagerie!

In October, 1900 came Paul Sandor and his Miniature Circus, with ” a talking lion on a donkey”. His most famous trick was to juggle a Pony and Trap, a very impressive feat of strength. The following January brought to our stage Boswell’s Novel Stage Circus ” with a splendid stud of educated ponies and donkeys” Edward Sasman in 1902 featured Fox Terriers and a Horse on the stage. The following year, Miss Fredericka showed us her toy terriers and ” Dot”, the world’s smallest pony.

In a hot week in July, 1905, when the air in the Hippodrome had to be cooled with ice blocks, James de Voye displayed ” Billy”, “the Horse with the Human Brain”, who allegedly would paw answers to arithmetical sums and played a game of Snap with cards.

In May, 1903, the Three Eldreds had visited us from America, demonstrating remarkable horsemanship- ” see their original single and double leaps from the stage on to the horse’s back, both to seat and feet; also their great triple spontaneous leaps from the stage to the back of a galloping horse”.

The proprietor of the Hippodrome for its first decade was Thomas Barrasford, who was a great horseman and owned stables. In the early years, the fronts of the theatre programmes were illustrated with paintings of two of his favourite horses- Little Grafton and Bencher.

Even when the Hippodrome had entered the ” Golden Age of Variety” in the 1930s and 1940s, horses still cantered across our stage, often as part of complete circus shows, together with lions, tigers, bears and elephants.In September, 1935, ” Here Comes The Circus” featured Tex Nidley and his Horse, while Albert Jerich brought his Cream Ponies, High School Horse and a team of Liberty Horses. A ” Mammoth Circus” at Christmas, 1945 presented Little Sylvia- the Ballerina on Horseback”, as well as Lou Lenny and his Unrideable Donkey” and Young Roy, “the world’s youngest High School rider”.

Hollywood cowboys brought their horses to the Hippodrome- Tom Mix and “Tony” in 1938 and Roy Rodgers and “Trigger” in 1954. On this occasion, the theatre was full of excited schoolboys, all firing their toy guns with caps at the ” baddie” on stage. Trigger was stabled at M and B’s Cape Hill Brewery and fans gathered every morning to watch him being fed and watered. When the legendary Laurel and Hardy were here in November, 1953, they were preceded on the bill by Derek Rosaire and “Tony the Wonder Horse”.

As recently as 1969, a production of the old musical comedy ” The Arcadians” was planned to feature a show-jumping horse named “Rory” but it was discovered that he was too big to fit back-stage and the idea had to be dropped.

In 1988, a production of ” Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” included Cecil the Donkey, whom our Stage Door Manager, a younger Tom Phipps(!), had to rescue from
being held up in City Centre traffic. He had to guide Cecil through the nearby streets to get him here in time for the matinee.

And we must nor forget the wonder on the faces of children when they see Cinderella’s coach being pulled by enchanting white ponies, taking her to the Ball. Ian Lucker’s Ponies
filled this role in our 2006/2007 Cinderella, which starred Brian Conley.

A postscript- in the old days of weekly Variety, the artistes’ props, scenery and stage equipment had to be transported by horse and cart to and from New Street Station to the Hippodrome- late on Saturday nights and early on Monday mornings. There were times when, as the Queen of the Music Hall Marie Lloyd used to sing, ” I wanted to go to Birmingham but they put me off at Crewe” and things got ” mislaid”!

So, War Horse, as well as reminding us of the important work that horses did in WW1, also makes us think of the place of horses in the daily lives of the early 20th century, in transport
and distribution- not to mention their important role on our stage entertaining the people of Birmingham.

On Wed 31 Oct Ivan will be hosting a free talk on the theatre during WW1 – to book book your place click here.

For more information on War Horse and to book tickets click here.

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Independent Birmingham

…on price band A on all performances. Maximum of 2 tickets per member. Circus 1903 £3 off price band A, £4 off price bands B-D on weekday performances. Maximum of…

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Roll up, roll up! New shows now on sale...

Continuing our 120th anniversary celebrations, we are very pleased to announce three new productions for 2019 – all visiting the theatre for the very first time.

Tickets are now on sale to Birmingham Hippodrome Friends and Patrons members for The Gruffalo, On Your Feet! and Circus 1903 – general booking opens at 2pm today, 27 Mar. These three productions are also joined by a one night only appearance from comedy legend, Ben Elton. For more information on becoming a Friend click here.

The Gruffalo (25 & 26 Jun) is Tall Stories’ magical, musical adaptation of the classic picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The production is packed full of songs, laughs and monstrous fun for children aged 3 and up and their grown-ups.

The Broadway and West End production of the smash-hit musical, On Your Feet! (3-7 Sep) charts the inspiring true love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and their journey from Cuba, to the streets of Miami and finally onto international superstardom. This exhilarating musical features some of the most iconic pops songs of the era, including Rhythm Is Gonna Get You, Conga, Get On Your Feet, Don’t Want To Lose You Now and 1-2-3.

Celebrating the Hippodrome’s roots as a circus 120 years ago, Circus 1903 (25 Oct-2 Nov) rolls into Birmingham for the October half term. Featuring sensational life-sized elephants created by puppeteers from War Horse, this stunning show puts elephants back in the ring as never before. The circus also boasts a huge cast of jaw-dropping and dangerous acts from across the globe including acrobats, contortionists, trapeze and high wire performers, transporting you to the mesmerising Golden Age of circus.

For the first time in 15 years, Ben Elton will bring his brand-new UK tour to Birmingham Hippodrome on 14 Nov. Elton’s new tour promises to be a belly laughter-filled night, as he tries to make sense of the current state of the world.

Tickets are now on sale to Birmingham Hippodrome Friends and Patrons members, general booking opens at 2pm today, 27 Mar. For more information on becoming a Friend click here.

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120 Years of Birmingham Hippodrome

Celebrating 120 years of unforgettable performance in the heart of Birmingham.

2019 marks 120 years since an entertainment venue was first built on the Hippodrome site.

Starting as a circus, then followed by variety, Birmingham Hippodrome is now one of the UK’s busiest theatres.

We have an exciting programme of events planned throughout 2019 to celebrate this history – the below are just a few.

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Our Magazine

Last year, we launched our brand new magazine – stages.

From shows and festivals to workshops and gala dinners, there’s something for everyone at Birmingham Hippodrome. And with so much going on, we thought we’d better make our magazine bigger and better!

We hope you like the new look and if you have any feedback or ideas for stories, please drop us a line at press@birminghamhippodrome.com

Issue Eight – Autumn 2019 

In this issue: The golden age of circus returns to the Hippodrome, behind the scenes of our first community production and a cracking competition.

 

Issue Seven – Spring 2019

In this issue: We go behind Jaymi Hensley’s dressing room door, Rosie Kay demystifies contemporary dance and we take a peek at the new Patrick Studio season!

Issue Six – Winter 2018/19

In this issue: Cyndi Lauper gets Kinky! The perfect panto sets sail and we talk Beauty and the Beast with David Bintley.

 

 

Issue Five – Autumn/Winter 2018

In this issue: Panto veteran Matt Slack, festive fun in the Patrick Studio and more!

Issue Four – Spring/Summer 2018

In this issue: We’re mad about Matilda The Musical hitting our stage! This and much more in our latest issue

 

Issue Three – January 2018

In this issue: New year, new us! Check out the first stages of 2018 and win Wicked tickets!

Issue Two – Autumn/Winter 2017

In this issue: West End producer Michael Harrison talks divas and dames, we go ‘behind the seams’ with Welsh National Opera’s costume department and we explore our new programme of shows and musical themed talks.

Issue One – Spring/Summer 2017

In this issue: We chat to one of the world’s top choreographers Sir Matthew Bourne about The Red Shoes, we pull out our best moves for B-SIDE Hip-Hop Festival and ‘get curious’ with a relaxed performance, conference and fundraising events.

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1899 Club

Do you remember the first time theatre took your breath away?

Join us as a founder member of our 1899 Club and help us pass on this feeling to those less fortunate, one by one, for many more years to come.

A small monthly donation is all it takes.

Birmingham Hippodrome has been changing the lives of local people through the magic of theatre since 1899. From our roots in Circus and Variety to our role today as a world-class theatre, we have been at the beating heart of local communities for decades.

By making a monthly donation you will support the theatre you love, and give something back to your local community.

Your donation will take us closer to our vision of creating One Million Hippodrome Moments. Every year we want to reach 500,000 people through our theatre programmes and a further 500,000 children, young people and vulnerable communities with low-cost or free activities. Explore how your donation will make a difference below, and join today.

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Hippodrome 120 Sculpture Commission

2019 marks 120 years since an entertainment venue was first built on Birmingham Hippodrome’s site. Starting as a circus, then followed by variety, Birmingham Hippodrome is now one of the UK’s busiest theatres.

As part of the celebrations for our 120th year, Birmingham Hippodrome is working in partnership with Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre (PSC) to commission a temporary, site-specific sculpture for a void space in our four-storey foyer, around which the building’s primary public staircase ascends. Footfall in the foyer exceeds half a million visitors each year.

Founded in 2013, Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre (PSC) is a not-for-profit arts organisation that offers resources that bring together the production of sculpture with critical, cultural and educational programming on this art form. Providing essential opportunities, technical support and facilities, PSC supports the advancement of sculptural practice in the UK, critical engagement and innovation in this field.

We are interested in receiving expressions of interest from early and mid-career artists whose artistic practices demonstrate an engagement with sculpture and/or work in three dimensions, for a bold, new site-specific art work to be suspended in this void space, which is approximately 10 metres high.

Up to five artists will be shortlisted for £250 awards to develop full proposals. The successful artist will go on to receive an artist’s fee of £2,500 as well as a production budget of £10,000. PSC will support the artist in the project’s management, production and installation.

For full details and instructions on how to apply, download this commission brief here.

The deadline for expressions of interest is 5pm on Fri 5 July. Submissions received after this deadline will not be considered.

Apply here

 

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Summer in Southside

On bank holiday weekend in August 2015, Hippodrome Square and the Arcadian were filled with an entertaining jamboree of spectacular street performance. Comedic performances lined the street with a range of high quality circus, dance and street theatre that delighted and suprised audiences from across the region.

Southside became an ideal location for fun and street food with performances from a range of local and international artists. A highlight of the programme was Tangle by Australian Company Polygot – a huge, messy, fun, interactive elastic weaving event created live by children and their families. The Arcadian, became home to a stage and music performances as well as hip hop battles and an interactive graffiti wall!

Visit the Summer in Southside website to see who came to our party!

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4 Squares Weekender

4 Squares Weekender was a major outdoor celebration on 6 – 8 Sep 2013 for the opening of the Library of Birmingham, presented by Birmingham Arts Partnership (BAP), the consortium of leading arts organisations and venues in the city.

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A Hidden History of China as seen on stage

With the streets of Southside soon-to-be filled with the sights and sounds of Chinese New Year, Hippodrome Heritage Volunteer Ivan Heard treats us to a fascinating look at the changing representations of ‘Chinese’ culture as seen on stage at Birmingham Hippodrome since the venue first opened its doors in 1899.

A white, blue, orange and red, one-sided flyer advertising the Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society's 'Flower Drum Song' which is a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical play. The show was in aid of the National and Local Charities and ran for two weeks. The show commenced on Monday 24 October 1966, evenings at 19:15 and a matinee on Saturday 05 November at 14:30.
A white, blue, orange and red, one-sided flyer advertising the Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society’s ‘Flower Drum Song’ which is a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical play.

Today, the Hippodrome is at the centre of Birmingham’s bustling and thriving Chinatown but 117 years ago, when the theatre was just opening, China was perceived as a very far-off, exotic and forbidding land. Not many Birmingham people would have known much about it, even though by then there was a small Chinese community in the area. The image would probably have been one of sinister goings-on, often fueled by the opium trade, and of sailors being “Shanghai-ed”. The people were seen as being remote and rather incomprehensible, even though the West was aware of Chinese history, art, literature and dress.

From the start, Chinese performers brought their skills and artistry to our stage. The very first act at the Tivoli Theatre of Varieties, as the Hippodrome was called when it opened on 20 August, 1900, was Chung Ling Soo – “The Mysterious Chinese Magician”- even though he was a fraud, because he was actually an American named William Robinson! However, it could not be denied that he gave that first-night audience a spectacular and spell-binding display of illusions. Indeed, to Birmingham Hippodrome audiences, the Chinese performers were seen as very clever and skilled illusionists, acrobats or jugglers, who always presented their acts gracefully and colourfully.

A black and white photograph of a scene from Peking Opera's production of 'Havoc in Heaven' entitled 'The King of Heaven's Armies' performed at Birmingham Hippodrome. The image shows numerous performers in traditional dress and wearing masks and headdresses. The opera was performed at the Hippodrome on 14 & 15 October 1986.In October, 1900, M. Aude performed as an “oriental juggler”; in January, 1903, Foo Choo brought his illusions; and in October, 1907, Ormonde Penstone, ” the prestidigateur” , was assisted by ” The Eastern Lady Illusionist Tsaou- Ngo”. In February, 1907, Gustave Fasola, “the famous fakir and oriental wonder worker “had performed here and “The Owl” journal had commented that “some of the illusions are very good; it takes a good deal to make a Birmingham audience very astonished at anything”. Nothing new there, then!

In 1917 and 1918, the celebrated Chinese magician Chung Wu appeared to much mystified acclaim.

The other side of how China was perceived was also portrayed on the Hippodrome stage in these early years. In October, 1905, Brown and Nevarro presented their original sketch ” A Chinese Elopement”, and In December, 1911, Miss Mary Mayferis and her Company staged “The Yellow Fang”, ” based on the actual facts of a Terrible Crime committed in the Chinese Quarter of San Francisco in the summer of 1902″. Another Chinese- American episode came in August, 1913 – this was called ” The Big Joss”, about the Gold Rush of 1849.

Chinese acrobats, jugglers and balancing acts appeared regularly in Variety from the 1930s. On the 9th Anniversary of the Hippodrome’s joining the great Moss Empires circuit, which had been in 1924, a special Birthday Show included the Sue-Yee Chinese Troupe; and Chinese acrobats came in a show in July, 1932 which included an item called “Shanghai Nights”, performed by the “Peking Girl” dancers. Right up to the 1950s, there were Chinese acts in Variety. In August, 1950, there was the Young China Troupe and in March, 1959, the Pan Yue Jen Troupe – “the Chinese Wonder Entertainers”

A famous Chinese troupe were the Lai Founs, who were on our stage in Variety in April, 1944 and May, 1948. They comprised four men and two women who did plate-spinning on swaying bamboo poles. They have entered the history books, because they appeared on the opening day of the world’s first television service, broadcast by the BBC from Alexandra Palace, north London, on 2 November, 1936. After the official opening at 3.00pm and an interval with the time, weather and British Movietone News, the very first programme was “Variety” from 3.30 to 4.00. The Lai Founs were part of this show.

A souvenir programme, the Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society presents by arrangement with Samuel French Ltd 'Chu Chin Chow' in aid of Cancer Relief and other charities. The front cover is yellow and has six illustrations of scenes from the show down the left-hand side. The inside contains a cast list, photographs and advertisements. Programme cost one shilling. The show commenced on 17 November 1958 and ran for two weeks.
A souvenir programme, the Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society presents by arrangement with Samuel French Ltd ‘Chu Chin Chow’ in aid of Cancer Relief and other charities. The front cover is yellow and has six illustrations of scenes from the show down the left-hand side. The inside contains a cast list, photographs and advertisements. Programme cost one shilling. The show commenced on 17 November 1958 and ran for two weeks.

The Chinese community have also been portrayed in several musicals that have been staged at the Hippodrome. For years, the most famous and popular was “Chu Chin Chow”, first performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End in August, 1916. It ran for five years and 2,238 performances, more than twice the previous run for a musical at that time, and its record stood until “Salad Days” from 1954. A huge hit with Servicemen on leave in WW1, it boasted a dozen lavish scenes, spectacular sets and lighting effects and was inspired by the then English taste for all things oriental. One of the attractions was the chorus of girls, scantily dressed for the time, who performed as slaves; there was also a camel, donkey, poultry and snakes.

“Chu Chin Chow” was first staged at the Hippodrome in 1949 but it returned even more spectacularly on Ice for the Christmas season in 1953/1954, with a huge cast of over 100.There was a production by the Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society in November, 1958 and an expensively re-staged version in October, 1959, starring New Zealand singer Inia Te Wiata.

Other musicals featuring the Chinese community of San Francisco have been Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song”- the only production of which at the Hippodrome was by the BMOS in October, 1966. “Thoroughly Modern Millie” features a Chinese laundry, which is a front for selling young, naive provincial girls into slave labour. It was staged here in April, 2005 and again, with Lesley Joseph and Grace Kennedy, in June, 2007.

“The World of Suzie Wong”, a play staged here in November, 1960, was about a young English artist in Hong Kong who befriended and eventually married a Chinese woman who worked as a prostitute. It starred Derek Waring and Juliet Yuen.

In the 1970s, the Chinese entertainment on the Hippodrome’s stage was a reversion to our own roots as a circus. In June, 1976, The Chinese Circus Variety of Taiwan visited with 36 artists “in skilful acrobatic feats dating back to 200 BC”.

The Peking Opera was here in June, 1979 and again in October, 1986, wearing their traditional costumes, masks and headdresses.

The paper handbill is printed in white and purple on both sides. The front advertises a London Palladium Pantomime presenting 'Aladdin', starring Harry Worth, Yana (Aladdin), Lauri Lupino Lane, Emyr Green, David Browning, Ken Wilson and Peter Butterworth. The back details performance dates and times. Boxes cost 60/-, Stalls 10/6 and 12/6, Dress Circle 15/-, Circle 7/6, 10/6 and 12/6, children at reduced rates.

The most regular Chinese influence at the Hippodrome is, of course, in the Pantomime “Aladdin”. However, the story comes from the “Thousand and One Nights”, a collection of fables told by Scheherazade and first collected together in Persia (now Iran) in the 9th Century. According to Peter Lathan in his history of Panto, “It’s Behind You!”,  ” the source of the version we know is a 15th. Century Egyptian manuscript”. The story of Aladdin was first published in 1722 and was first performed as a Pantomime at Covent Garden in 1788. “The costumes were inspired by Chinese, Japanese and Persian”.

Aladdin’s real name was Arabic but over time, the setting of the Pantomime moved from Baghdad to Peking, as the English taste for Chinese art and culture blossomed.

A blue and gold flyer for Nick Thomas and Jon Conway for Qdos Entertainment plc present 'Aladdin'. It states at the top 'The UK's Biggest & Brightest Pantomime!' and that Qdos Entertainment supports the Variety Club. Photographs of the cast in full costume feature on the flyer and there were Amanda Barrie, Bobby Davro, Melinda Messenger, John Challis and Don Maclean. The back lists the dates and times for all the performances including some Sign Language Interpreted Performances as well as ticket prices. The pantomime began on Saturday 21 December 2002 and ran until Sunday 09 February 2003.

The Hippodrome has staged 9 productions of Aladdin so far:-

  • 1959/60- Dickie Valentine, Eve Boswell and Norman Evans
  • 1967/68- Harry Worth, Yana, Lauri Lupino Lane, Peter Butterworth
  • 1974/75- Larry Grayson, Alfred Marks, Keith Harris (Photo- Trinity Mirror)
  • 1981/82- Danny La Rue, Dilys Watling, The Half-wits
  • 1992/93- Brian Conley. Michael Elphick, Britt Eckland
  • 1998/1999- Brian Conley, Danny La Rue
  • 2002/2003- Amanda Barrie, Bobby Davro, Melinda Messenger, Don Maclean, John Challis
  • 2007/2008- John Barrowman, Don Maclean, The Grumbleweeds, Masashi Fujimoto as the Emperor
  • 2015/2016- Marti Pellow, Julian Clary, Lee Mead, Matt Slack, Andrew Ryan

Perhaps Aladdin is so popular because it offers the chance for oriental sparkle and spectacle, with colourful costumes and eye-popping scenes and effects. In many ways, it reflects the popular appeal of “things Chinese” (including these days, food!) from way back in the 19th Century, even though these perceptions are stereotyped and bear little relation to the present day.

Ivan Heard- Hippodrome Heritage Volunteer

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Blog

Roll up, roll up for an exciting new season celebrating our 120th anniversary!

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First look: in rehearsals for West Side Story

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