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The Phantom of the Opera set to haunt the Hippodrome in 2020

The brilliant original production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera will come to Birmingham Hippodrome in 2020 as part of a major UK and Ireland tour.

To be the first to get your hands on the best seats in the house become a Friend here.

Now in its 33rd phenomenal year in the West End, The Phantom of the Opera is widely considered one of the most beautiful and spectacular productions in history. The production will come to Birmingham Hippodrome from 29 July – 12 September 2020, tickets will go on sale to Birmingham Hippodrome Friends and Patron scheme members on Tuesday 10 September at 11am.

Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Theatre Company Limited The Phantom of the Opera‘s romantic, haunting and soaring score includes Music of the Night, All I Ask of You, Masquerade and the iconic title song.

The Phantom of the Opera tells the tale of a disfigured musical genius known only as ‘The Phantom’ who haunts the depths of the Paris Opera House. Mesmerised by the talents and beauty of a young soprano – Christine, the Phantom lures her as his protégé and falls fiercely in love with her. Unaware of Christine’s love for Raoul, the Phantom’s obsession sets the scene for a dramatic turn of events where jealousy, madness and passions collide.

The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most successful musicals in history playing to over 145 million people in 41 countries and 183 cities in 17 languages. It has won more than 70 major theatre awards, including seven Tony Awards and four Olivier Awards.

Fiona Allan, Birmingham Hippodrome Artistic Director and Chief Executive said; “The Phantom of the Opera is the very definition of a blockbuster musical, having played in London for 33 years and been seen by 145 million people worldwide. Now Birmingham audiences will have the opportunity to experience this extraordinary production, as once again the Hippodrome brings the very best of the West End to the West Midlands.

Tickets will go on sale to Birmingham Hippodrome Friends and Patron scheme members on Tuesday 10 September at 11am, to groups on Tuesday 24 September at 11am and to the general public from Thursday 26 September at 11am. Click here to become a Friend and enjoy priority booking for some of the best seats in the house.

Phantom of the Opera, London, 2017, Credit: Johan Persson


Rehearsal shots released for The Phantom of the Opera

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh have released the first set of images from rehearsals for the brilliant original production of The Phantom of the Opera which comes to Birmingham Hippodrome from 29 July – 12 September 2020.

Returning to Birmingham Hippodrome following his acclaimed performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, Killian Donnelly will play the title role of ‘The Phantom’. He will be joined by Holly-Anne Hull as ‘Christine Daaé’ and Rhys Whitfield as ‘Raoul’.

Now in its 34th phenomenal year in the West End, The Phantom of the Opera is widely considered one of the most beautiful and spectacular productions in history. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic, haunting and soaring score includes Music of the Night, All I Ask of You, Masquerade and the iconic title song.

The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most successful musicals in entertainment history playing to over 145 million people in 41 countries and 183 cities in 17 languages. It has won more than 70 major theatre awards, including seven Tony Awards and four Olivier Awards.

The Phantom of the Opera the only show in history to have celebrated 30 years on both sides of the Atlantic. In October 2016 the London production celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a special gala performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre and in October 2011 the London production celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a spectacular staging of “The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall” which was screened live in cinemas all over the world and subsequently released on DVD. The musical became the longest running show in Broadway history on 9 January 2006 when it celebrated its 7,486th performance. On 1 January 2018 it celebrated its 13,000th performance and later that month on 24 January the Broadway production celebrated an amazing 30 years on Broadway.

The Phantom of the Opera will come to Birmingham Hippodrome from 29 July – 12 September 2020, for more information and to book click here. 


Killian Donnelly returns to Birmingham in The Phantom of the Opera

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh are delighted to announce full casting for the brilliant original production of The Phantom of the Opera when it plays Birmingham Hippodrome from 29 July – 12 September 2020.

Returning to Birmingham Hippodrome following his acclaimed performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables in 2019, Killian Donnelly will play the title role of ‘The Phantom’. He will be joined by Holly-Anne Hull as ‘Christine Daaé’ and Rhys Whitfield as ‘Raoul’.

Saori Oda will play the role of ‘Carlotta Giudicelli’, Adam Linstead ‘Monsieur André’, Matt Harrop ‘Monsieur Firmin’, Francesca Ellis ‘Madame Giry’, Greg Castiglioni ‘Ubaldo Piangi’ and Ellie Young ‘Meg Giry’. At certain performances the role of ‘Christine Daaé’ will be played by Anouk Van Laake.

The cast is completed by Brad Barnley, Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong, Corina Clark, Edward Court, Vinny Coyle, Lily De-La-Haye, Hywel Dowsell, Connor Ewing, Erin Flaherty, James Gant, Lydia Gerrard, Daniel Hall, Eilish Harmon-Beglan, Yukina Hasebe, Hettie Hobbs, Jacob Hughes, Grace Hume, James Hume, Michaela Leisk, Janet Mooney, Ian Mowat, Michael Robert-Lowe, Anna Simmons, Nikki Skinner, Anouk Van Laake, Louis Van Leer, Jasmine Wallis and Andrew York.

Killian Donnelly can currently be seen as Jean Valjean in the International Tour of Les Misérables. Prior to this, he played the role in the West End production of the show. He played the role of Charlie Price in Kinky Boots on Broadway, a role he originated at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End in 2015, for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award. His other theatre credits include Huey in the original London cast of Memphis at the Shaftesbury Theatre for which he was also nominated for an Olivier Award, and Jackie in Frank McGuinness’ Donegal at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre.  He created the role of Deco in The Commitments at the Palace Theatre and has also played Tony in Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre as well as Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. He first joined the company of Les Misérables in 2008, going on to play the role of Enjolras from 2009 to 2011. In 2010, he played the role of Courfeyrac in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables at The O2 Arena and also played the role of Combeferre in the multi-award-winning film of the show, released in 2012.

Holly-Anne Hull is currently appearing in the concert of Les Misérables at the Gielgud Theatre. She has also appeared in the International tour of the show and the West End production at the Queen’s Theatre. Her other credits include the UK tour of Copacabana and Loserville at the Union Theatre.

Rhys Whitfield recently appeared in Summer and Smoke at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End and as Peter in Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. His other credits include Close to You at the Criterion Theatre and the UK tour of The Commitments.

Now in its 34th phenomenal year in the West End, The Phantom of the Opera is widely considered one of the most beautiful and spectacular productions in history. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic, haunting and soaring score includes Music of the Night, All I Ask of You, Masquerade and the iconic title song.

The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most successful musicals in entertainment history playing to over 145 million people in 41 countries and 183 cities in 17 languages. It has won more than 70 major theatre awards, including seven Tony Awards and four Olivier Awards.

The Phantom of the Opera plays at Birmingham Hippodrome from 29 July – 12 September 2020 for more information and tickets click here.


The Phantom of the Opera – easy ticket guide

We’ve put together a quick fire guide to getting your tickets for The Phantom of the Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome 29 July – 12 September 2020…


How do I get early access to tickets…?
Want to be first in line for the best seats in the house? Birmingham Hippodrome Friends get exclusive access to tickets from Tuesday 10 September at 11am. Friends also benefit from ticket discounts and access to VIP events, with membership starting at £50 for a year – click here to find out more and join.

When do tickets go on general sale…?
Tickets go on general sale from 11am on Thursday 26 September, click here to book or call 0844 338 5000 (4.5p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge).

Booking your seats – don’t stress!
There are over 95,000 tickets for 53 performances of The Phantom of the Opera; we expect it to be an extremely busy time but be patient and you will be able to book tickets.

Be prepared…
– Choose the date and time you wish to attend in advance (you can see a full list here) and have a couple of back-up options ready too
-Check your login details are correct and set up an account if you have not already done so
-Have your payment card ready to go
-Enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit while you wait – we will get to you!


Why am I in a queue online…?
To ensure the website can continue to function under the pressure, when you click through to book your tickets you will enter a queue on the website. Please keep an eye on the queue as when it is your turn, you may need to click a link to take you to the next stage.

There will also be times where you will be unable to choose your own seat in the auditorium. If the website offers you ‘Best Available Seating’ and you wish to amend your seating once your booking has been processed, please contact the Box Office Post Purchase Enquiries on 0121 689 1060 and a member of the team will be more than happy to look into this for you.

Where is the best place to sit…?
The Birmingham Hippodrome auditorium is made up of the Stalls (downstairs) and Circle (upstairs). Both offer a clear view of the stage, with the Stalls being close to the action and a  gradual slope and the Circle offering more of a picture view of the stage with a steeper rake above those sitting in front of you. It’s all down to personal preference and how you wish to see the show.

There are some restricted views for this production, seats that offer a potentially restricted view are sometimes illustrated with a star instead of a dot on the website. At this stage, we cannot confirm if or how restricted these would be.

How many tickets do I need to qualify as a Group?
Groups tickets are for parties of 10 or more and go on sale at 11am on Tuesday 24 September – call 0844 338 7000 to book, group tickets are not available to book online.

Group bookings for up to 20 tickets can be reserved for 30 days before full payment is required. The reservation period can be extended to up to 90 days for groups booking more than 20 tickets (subject to availability).

When will I get my tickets?
If you have selected E-Tickets when making your booking, please allow up to one hour for these to reach your inbox from the time of booking. You should receive a confirmation within 5 minutes of booking. If you haven’t, please contact our Post Purchase Ticket Line on 0121 689 1060 (option 1) and a member of the team can check your account.

If you selected postal tickets, these will be posted within 7 days of your booking. You can also collect your tickets from our Box Office at any point. These will be available with your order number as soon as your booking is confirmed.

Where should I eat?
There are plenty of dining and hospitality options to make your visit even more special;

Circle Restaurant – from £19.50*
Enjoy a delicious, seasonal contemporary menu in our AA Rosette awarded restaurant, just steps away from your seat in the auditorium. Return to your table in the interval for dessert, coffee and drinks. Click here to book.

Ovation Experience – from £60pp*
Celebrate in style with family, friends or colleagues in your very own private room. Greet your guests with a glass of Laurent-Perrier, before enjoying a sumptuous three course meal. We’ll take care of the finishing touches and provide each couple with a show programme and sweet treats! Email or call Clare on 0121 689 3083 to start creating your event now.

Gala Evening – from £150pp*
Be part of our spectacular Gala Evening on Wed 9 Sep at The Phantom of the Opera. This major event for 150 guests brings together world-class entertainment, award-winning hospitality and trademark surprises. Enjoy a red carpet welcome, drinks reception premium show ticket, programme, delicious seated dinner and exclusive after-party for the ultimate Hippodrome experience. Email us to reserve your place now!

*Pricing subject to change


The Phantom of the Opera - from the Hippodrome to your home

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical masterpiece has now been seen by over 140 million people worldwide and is currently playing its 34th year in London. Here’s how you can enjoy some of the music of the night in your own home…

Haunting the Hippodrome

When the original production first came to Birmingham Hippodrome for a three month run in 1988 it was the most technically advanced production ever to have visited the theatre, taking a three week period to prepare the stage and load in the sets and costumes. This is, to date, the only time the original production has played in Birmingham; a beautiful ‘reimagined’ version with new sets and costumes played from March – May in 2013.

Let the spectacle astound you

The closest you can get to watching the spectacular original production at home is with the 25th Anniversary Concert which took inspiration for all of the sets and costumes and transported them into the colossal setting of the Royal Albert Hall. Another option is the 2004 big screen adaptation starring Gerrard Butler and Emmy Rossum which takes the score and story and brings it to life in big, brash Hollywood style.

The Lord goes live

Last week, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber posted a video of him playing “All I Ask of You” from the show on his piano at home. Quickly, the entire orchestra from the London production posted their own videos of them playing the score from their places of isolation which came together in one beautiful rendition in this YouTube video…

One Man Phantom

Internet sensation, Nick Pitera is popular for his ‘one man’ versions of classic musicals. Nick’s rendition of songs from Phantom has to be one of his best, singing various roles including Christine, Raoul and the Phantom.

Love Never Dies

Finally, Lord Lloyd Webber opened his sequel to the blockbuster musical, Love Never Dies, in London’s West End in 2010; you can stream a recording of the Australian production filmed in 2012 here. Two of the stars of the original London production (who also played the lead roles in the Royal Albert Hall celebration), Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess, came back together this week online to share one of their favourite songs from the show on YouTube…


Patrons Events

As a Birmingham Hippodrome Patron you’ll be invited to join us at a selection of exclusive events. From show launches to meet and greets, our specially-designed events offer you the opportunity to meet visiting cast and crew and explore behind the scenes at the theatre.

Become a Patron and join us at our next event!

Upcoming Patron Events

Fundraising Gala at Phantom of the Opera

Join our Fundraising Gala Evening at the magnificent Phantom of the Opera. Embrace the music of the night as you enjoy a special evening with family and friends at one of the world’s most loved musicals.  £140pp to include:

  • a welcome drink on arrival
  • a premium ticket to the performance
  • a delicious three course meal from our creative hospitality team
  • a show programme
  • the chance to enjoy a special evening in a private dining space

Already have a ticket to the show on this evening? Then simply upgrade from £75pp to join our Gala event.

The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most successful musicals in history playing to over 145 million people in 41 countries and 183 cities in 17 languages. It has won more than 70 major theatre awards, including seven Tony Awards and four Olivier Awards. By attending the event you’ll be supporting our fundraising to benefit Hippodrome Projects and Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust – Charity No 510842 – thank you!

Take a look at a gallery of previous fundraising events

For more information about our Patrons scheme and how you can get involved contact Fundraising 0300 303 5200 and select Option 1



Casting announced for Les Mis

Cameron Mackintosh announced today full casting for the forthcoming UK and Ireland tour of his acclaimed production of the Boublil and Schönberg musical LES MISÉRABLES.

Joining the previously announced Killian Donnelly as ‘Jean Valjean’ will be Nic Greenshields as ‘Javert’, Katie Hall as ‘Fantine’, Martin Ball as ‘Thénardier’, Sophie-Louise Dann as ‘Madame Thénardier’, Harry Apps as ‘Marius’, Tegan Bannister as ‘Eponine’, Will Richardson as ‘Enjolras’ and Bronwen Hanson as ‘Cosette’.

Completing the cast will be Joseph Anthony, Helen Aylott, Jamie Birkett, Keoni Blockx, Michael Burgen, Nicholas Carter, Mary-Jean Caldwell, Danny Colligan, Nicholas Corre, Megan Gardiner, Zac Hamilton, Jessie Hart, Teleri Hughes,  Brian James Leys, Ruby Lyon, Leo Miles, Shane O’Riordan, Lee Ormsby, Jordan Simon Pollard, Corrine Priest, Aaron Pryce-Lewis, Janne Snellen, Ruben Van keer and Emma Warren.

Killian Donnelly recently played the role of ‘Jean Valjean’ in the West End production of “Les Misérables”. Prior to his run in “Les Misérables”, he played the role of ‘Charlie Price’ in “Kinky Boots” on Broadway, a role he originated at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End in 2015, for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award. His other theatre credits include ‘Huey’ in the original London cast of “Memphis” at the Shaftesbury Theatre for which he was also nominated for an Olivier Award.  He created the role of ‘Deco’ in “The Commitments” at the Palace Theatre and has also played ‘Tony’ in “Billy Elliot” at the Victoria Palace Theatre as well as ‘Raoul’ in “The Phantom of the Opera” at Her Majesty’s Theatre. He first joined the company of “Les Misérables” in 2008, going onto play the role of ‘Enjolras’ from 2009 to 2011. In 2010, he played the role of ‘Courfeyrac’ in the “25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables” at The O2 Arena and also played the role of ‘Combeferre’ in the multi-award-winning film of the show, released in 2012.

Nic Greenshields most recently appeared in “Young Frankenstein” at the Garrick Theatre. His many other West End credits include “Les Misérables” at both the Queen’s and Palace Theatres, “The Phantom of the Opera” at Her Majesty’s Theatre, “Billy Elliot” at the Victoria Palace Theatre and “Miss Saigon” at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Katie Hall’s numerous credits include playing ‘Cosette’ in this production of “Les Misérables” in 2009. She has also played the role at the Queen’s Theatre and in the 25th Anniversary Concert at the O2. Her other credits include ‘Christine’ in “The Phantom of the Opera” at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End and on tour, ‘Johanna’ in “Sweeney Todd” at the London Coliseum and ‘Maria’ in the national tour of “West Side Story”.

Martin Ball has previously appeared as ‘Thénardier’ in “Les Misérables” at the Queen’s Theatre. His other West End credits include ‘Monsieur André’ in “The Phantom of the Opera”, ‘Harry’ in “Mamma Mia!” and the original cast of “Wicked”. He appeared as ‘Mr Banks’ in the first national tour of “Mary Poppins”. His other credits include “Top Hat” in both the West End and on tour.

Sophie-Louise Dann’s many West End credits include ’Celia’ in “The Girls” at the Phoenix Theatre (Olivier Award nomination), ‘Barbara Castle’ in “Made in Dagenham” at the Adelphi Theatre, “Jolson” at the Victoria Palace Theatre and ‘Diana Divane’ in “Lend Me a Tenor” at the Gielgud Theatre, for which she was nominated for an Olivier Award.

Harry Apps makes his professional debut as ‘Marius’ having successfully auditioned at the recent open auditions for the show.

Tegan Bannister’s West End credits include ‘Young Nala’ in “The Lion King” at the Lyceum Theatre and “Les Misérables” at the Queen’s Theatre.

Will Richardson has appeared as ‘Rum Tum Tugger’ in “Cats” and ‘Rolf’ in “The Sound of Music”, both on international tour.

Bronwen Hanson has appeared in “Broken Wings” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Whilst training her credits include ‘Sally Bowles’ in “Cabaret”.

Since Cameron Mackintosh first conceived this new production of “Les Misérables” in 2009 to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary it has taken the world by storm. Originally touring the UK throughout 2009/10, and concluding with 22 performances at the Barbican, this production was hailed by audiences and critics alike.

“LES MISÉRABLES” runs from Tuesday 2nd April – Saturday 11 May 2019 – CLICK HERE to book tickets.


Create your own event

From pre-show dining in an exclusive suite, to informal get-togethers and receptions, awards ceremonies and much more – if you can imagine it, we can create it!


Classroom Resources & Teacher Packs

Our Learning and Participation Team have put together some learning packs for use by teachers and parents/guardians during this period of social distancing.

Relaxation and Re-Focus

Suitable for students with Special Educational Needs

Download pack

Spring Sensory

Suitable for Early Years and KS1

Download pack

Disney Inspired Sensory

Suitable for Early Years and KS1

Download pack


Suitable for Early Years and KS1

The Sun




Weather Forecast

The Phantom of the Opera: Masks

Suitable for Primary students

Download pack


Suitable for Ages 7+

Download pack

Around the World

Suitable for Years 1 and 2

Week 1 – Spain

Week 2 – Mexico

Week 3 – Russia

Week 4 – Zimbabwe

Week 5 – Brazil

Week 6 – India

Room on the Broom

Suitable for KS1

Download pack


Suitable for KS1

Download pack


Suitable for KS1 and KS2

Download pack

Yoga and Relaxation

Suitable for KS2

Download pack

Healthy Living

Suitable for KS2

Week 1 – Oliver’s Fruit Salad

Week 2 – How to Make an Apple Pie

Week 3 – Tyler Makes Spaghetti

Week 4 – Creepy Carrots

Spoken Word

Suitable for Secondary students

Download pack

Health and Wellbeing

Suitable for KS3 and KS4

Download pack

Bertolt Brecht

Suitable for KS4 and KS5

Download pack

Musical Theatre: Developing the Life of a Character

Suitable for KS4 and KS5

Download pack

We also have different packs of useful information and worksheets that can help on a school trip to the theatre or in the classroom.

About the theatre…

About the shows…

Current & Future Shows

Past Shows

School Groups Rates

Tickets – School Group Rates

Find information on dates and prices or alternatively call the Schools Hotline on 0844 338 7000†  or by email.

Risk Assessment

Download our school visit risk assessment.



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

This October will mark Birmingham Hippodrome’s official 120th birthday. To celebrate, the greatest show on earth will come to the city centre with a range of free performances and workshops honouring the theatre’s origins as a circus.

On Saturday 26 October, everyone is invited for a day of free family fun in and around Birmingham Hippodrome, as well as at Bullring & Grand Central. Try your hand at circus workshops where you can learn a range of performance skills, watch a variety of jaw-dropping circus acts such as jugglers and stilt walkers, and delve into the theatre’s rich history with a range of talks.

Continuing the celebration of the theatre’s heritage from 120 years ago, the circus returns to its Birmingham roots in the main auditorium as Circus 1903 (25 Oct-2 Nov) comes to the city for the very first time direct from a sell-out run at London’s Southbank Centre and packed with the thrills and daredevil entertainment of a turn-of-the-century circus. The show also includes sensational lifesized elephants stunningly created by puppeteers from War Horse!

Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio has announced a new season of bold, creative work as the theatre strives to bring the best in new cabaret, comedy, dance and drama to the studio space. Equipped with over 18 million views on Youtube, Mawaan Rizwan brings his one man show Juice (12 Sep), Hippodrome Associate Rosie Kay premieres her brand-new work Fantasia (25 & 26 Sep) and award-winning original musical Eye of the Storm (8 & 9 Oct) by Theatr na nÓg brings an unmissable tale of one young girl’s scientific quest to pursue her passion for tornados. YOOO!!! (22-24 Oct) presented by Emanuel Gat Dance & Théâtre National de Chaillot is a hip-hop and contemporary dance show for all ages, Anjali Dance Company’s Genius (19 & 20 Nov) is a double bill by an exceptional group of six dancers and multi-award-winners Ad Infinitum return with Extraordinary Wall of Silence (22 & 23 Jan), a new production combining the company’s trademark physical storytelling with the beauty of Sign Language. Apples and Snakes and Birmingham Hippodrome’s monthly world-class poetry and spoken word event, Hit the Ode (11 Oct, 8 Nov, 31 Jan) also continues its residency in the Patrick Studio.

Just announced for the main stage, the Broadway and West End smash-hit musical Sister Act (15-26 Sep 2020) will come to Birmingham Hippodrome with a brand-new production starring Brenda Edwards and produced by Whoopi Goldberg. Nominated for 5 Olivier Awards including Best New Musical, SIX (21-25 Jul 2020) is the new musical phenomenon everyone is losing their head over as it comes to Birmingham for the very first time.

Now in its 33rd phenomenal year in the West End, The Phantom of the Opera (29 Jul-12 Sep 2020) will haunt the Hippodrome with the spectacular and brilliant original production in the summer of 2020. Tickets will go on sale to Birmingham Hippodrome Friends and Patron scheme members on Tuesday 10 September at 11am, to groups on Tuesday 24 September at 11am and to the general public from Thursday 26 September at 11am.

Other musical blockbusters include Blood Brothers (30 Sep-12 Oct), Priscilla Queen of the Desert (13-18 Apr 2020), We Will Rock You (20 Apr-2 May 2020), MAMMA MIA! (12-30 May 2020) and the return of Les Misérables (30 Jun-18 Jul 2020) following a sell-out 2019 season.

This year’s pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (21 Dec 2019–2 Feb 2020) promises to be one of the most spectacular yet featuring sets and costumes direct from the London Palladium. The all-star line up features Lesley Joseph, Matt Slack, Joe McElderry, Faye Brookes, Flawless, Doreen Tipton and Andrew Ryan.

Continuing Birmingham Hippodrome’s reputation as a hub for the best in dance from across the globe, South Africa’s internationally renowned choreographer, Dada Masilo, presents her fearless re-imagining of the iconic classic, Giselle (15 & 16 Oct) plus ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company return with Some Like It Hip Hop (18 & 19 Oct). International ballet superstar Carlos Acosta brings his critically acclaimed Cuban company, Acosta Danza (11 & 12 Nov) to Birmingham ahead of his exciting appointment as Artistic Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in January 2020 and Matthew Bourne’s Olivier Award winning The Red Shoes (11-15 Feb 2020) returns following two sell-out seasons in 2016. Birmingham Hippodrome will also co-produce Message In A Bottle (8-11 Apr 2020) with Sadler’s Wells and The Lowry, an exciting new production choreographed by Kate Prince and set to the iconic hits of Sting.

Resident ballet company, Birmingham Royal Ballet bring their timeless classic productions of Giselle (25-28 Sep), The Nutcracker (22 Nov-14 Dec) and Swan Lake (18-29 Feb 2020) plus an Autumn Mixed Bill (19-21 Sep) and Carlos Acosta’s stunning version of the dazzling, Cervantes-inspired comedy, Don Quixote (19-27 Jun) marking the first UK performances of the production outside of London.

Some of the biggest names in comedy take to the stage including Ben Elton (14 Nov), Rob Beckett (6 & 7 Feb 2020) and Romesh Ranganathan (3 & 4 May 2020) plus a return home for Lenny Henry (20 Oct) as he opens his brand new tour right here in Birmingham.

Finally, Welsh National Opera present a brand new production of Carmen (5 & 8 Nov 2019 & 7 May 2020) by Jo Davies set in 1970 South America, plus their acclaimed production of Rigoletto (6 & 9 Nov) and David Pountney’s colourful The Cunning Little Vixen (7 Nov). They are joined by the opulent The Marriage of Figaro (6 May 2020) and Verdi’s grand opera Les vêpres siciliennes (9 May 2020).

FIONA ALLAN, Artistic Director and Chief Executive at Birmingham Hippodrome said:

“Birmingham Hippodrome’s 120th year led me to reflect on this theatre’s rich heritage as well as our continual quest to remain relevant and exciting to an evolving population. As an independent charity, we have remained successful as the result of a shared a vision for Birmingham as a truly great, and global, city.

“Whilst perhaps we will always be best known for our thriving musicals and pantomime seasons, over the last few years, our efforts have also expanded into more visible charitable activity, and our efforts to enrich the cultural life of the region through developing and investing in regional talent.

“Our Hippodrome Education Network has expanded now to over 30 schools, we have established youth companies specialising in hip-hop, musical theatre and poetry, we run regular daytime programmes for toddlers, holiday workshops and free performances.  Our programme in the Patrick Studio, our second space, has also significantly expanded. And in 2019 we have developed two main stage productions, The Color Purple and West Side Story.

“On top of that, we now have seven Hippodrome Associates, who we help commission and present work on and off our stages.  Our dedicated festivals team delivered our largest outdoor programmes to date, including Chinese New Year, Summer in Southside and B-SIDE Hip-Hop festival along with free monthly activity in the Bullring.

“Over the past year we also constructed the Dance Hub, a new extension to our campus built on top of BRB’s studios, which will be a new home to OneDance UK.  And whilst finishing one build, we have been planning another- a revamp to our public spaces to better enable us to serve our public all day every day.  More news on that to come…

“Our new season provides a huge range of productions for audiences to choose from- from blockbuster musicals like The Phantom of the Opera to smaller, experimental work presented in The Patrick Studio like Fantasia, a brand new piece from Hippodrome Associate Rosie Kay.  I’m particular excited about new shows on sale like Whoopi Goldberg’s brand new production of Sister Act and the sensational SIX which tells a very different, and much sassier, story of Henry VIII’s many wives.

“With the official 120th birthday month of Birmingham Hippodrome fast approaching in October, we’re also busy preparing to celebrate our circus origins with hit show Circus 1903 rolling into town direct from London, and on Saturday 26 October, our big birthday open day steps back in time presenting spectacular performers, family-friendly workshops and heritage talks and tours. Don’t miss the fun!

“As we move forward, remember there is so much more to Birmingham Hippodrome than the work you see on stage- there is an ambitious charity sitting behind it all- working hard to make this city and region synonymous with culture and creative talent.”


A DIY night at the theatre...

This week, like many venues across the UK, we have had to make the difficult decision to close our doors to audiences for a number of weeks.

However, whilst our auditorium is dark, we have put together our top picks of films to watch to bring some showbiz pizazz to your living room and prepare yourself for when the curtain rises again here at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Designate an interval, dispense your wine into plastic cups and queue to use the toilet for that authentic theatre feeling…

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Raid your wardrobe and search for a sequin. This big-hearted big adventure is packed full of pop hits from disco divas such as Kylie, Gloria Gaynor and Petula Clark to have you up dancing – you’ll also never look at a ping pong ball the same way again. Do not try at home.

Mamma Mia!

Whilst thankfully our on-stage cast have bags more vocal talent than Pierce Brosnan, this sunny musical hit will have you dancing the day away. Why not crack open the olives, dig out that pot of hummus and find a pitta bread (if you can) and whisk yourself away to a Greek Island for a couple of hours.

The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall

This superb theatrical celebration of the brilliant original production of The Phantom of the Opera is the closest you will get to seeing the world-famous production at home. Candles recommended for extra atmosphere…just leave the lighting fixtures well alone.

Les Misérables

Mad about Miz? Then you’re spoilt for choice! Firstly, you can catch the 2012 blockbuster movie over on Netflix, then there’s the spectacular 25th anniversary concert live from the O2 starring Alfie Boe and finally rewind back to 1998 for the 10th anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall with the likes of Colm Wilkinson and Ruthie Henshall.  If you have a spare nine hours, why not go for a hattrick marathon?

Romesh Ranganathan

For those of you craving comedy, Romesh Ranganathan’s BBC series which sees him travelling across the globe and way out of his comfort zone to some of the most unusual holiday destinations in the world is sure to tickle the funny bone.

Bring It On

We’re going for fully nineties and naughties vibes with the original movie version of Bring It On – scrunchies must be worn and Furbies must be your viewing pals.

Room on the Broom

A must-watch for families, (even though if you have kids you’re likely to have already sat through this multiple times on repeat) this charming animated adaptation of the beloved children’s book is free to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Sister Act

Joyful, joyful! Here’s an idea, gather the rest of those in your household (pets included) and put together your own choir inspired by Whoopi herself. If you’re not in the habit of bursting into song, or on vocal rest, a double-bill with Sister Act 2 is just as much fun.


This movie adaptation of the hit West End and Broadway musical is guaranteed to please everyone – maybe even get dad to try out his best Edna Turnblad? If you’re feeling really retro there’s also the fabulous original featuring Divine and Ricki Lake.

Whilst we look forward to raising the curtain once again, we hope these theatrical movie choices will keep the spirit of Birmingham Hippodrome alive in your own front room. Make sure to share your DIY night at the theatre with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.





Then, Now Always: Spectacular gala celebrates 120 years of Birmingham Hippodrome and reveals bold ambitions for the future

Guests from Birmingham and across the region celebrated 120 years of Birmingham Hippodrome in style at a sparkling flagship Gala event this weekend. Hosted by Hippodrome panto favourite Matt Slack and sponsored by Birmingham Conference and Events Centre, the special anniversary evening reflected on the rich heritage of the theatre, showcased its brilliant talent and revealed ambitious plans for the venue’s future.

Hippodrome Associate Artists Motionhouse kicked off the evening with a free public performance of their new Hippodrome-commissioned piece Wild outside the venue at Hippodrome Square. Guests then walked the red carpet to a drinks reception, supported by Champagne sponsor Laurent-Perrier, before being ushered into the auditorium by dhol drummers and a dance and tabla vox performance by another Hippodrome Associate, Sonia Sabri Company.

Taking their seats on the world-famous Hippodrome stage, guests tucked in to a sumptuous three course meal, and were treated to stellar performances from principle cast members of Wicked, Six The Musical and The Phantom of the Opera, alongside Birmingham Hippodrome’s own Zoo Nation Young Company and the cast of West Side Story, the first community musical produced by Birmingham Hippodrome for the main stage.

BBC’s Satnam Rana hosted a lively Q&A session with Artistic Director & Chief Executive Fiona Allan and Glenn Howells, Chair of Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust, where grand ambitions were revealed to further grow the venue’s festivals programme, develop and diversify its programming and audiences work and to open up the building even more with an exciting future vision. Fiona Allan revealed plans to redevelop the front of the building to be more visible, new performances spaces and rehearsal facilities for schools and community us, to upgrade the venue to a truly world-class facility.

As well as marking 120 years since there has been an entertainment venue on the Hippodrome site, the celebratory gala also raised funds towards their education, youth and outreach work and the further development of Hippodrome Projects. Proceeds totalled nearly £40,000, which will further support the work the theatre does with young people inside and outside of schools and the development of further Hippodrome Projects with our city and region’s communities.

The spectacular evening closed with a performance from Midlands-born international star (and previous panto performer) Beverley Knight, followed by an after party in the venue’s Patrick Studio.

Fiona Allan, Artistic Director & Chief Executive said: “Our Gala was a fantastic celebration showcasing all we have to offer, from our talented Zoo Nation Young Company to the cast of our first community musical West Side Story and the best in West-End talent like Phantom of the Opera, arriving here in 2020.

We want the Hippodrome to reflect a city and region as young and diverse as ours is. We’re now open all day and are proud to be a public space in the city. We’ve increased the number of free and low cost activities, curated new visual arts programmes and expanded our free festivals programme. We also want to create a place where future performing artists can make a career, so we will continue to invest in commissioning and presenting the best local artists. We have many more ambitions for the future of the Hippodrome, from the co-commissions we’ve brought to the main stage during our 120th year to the building itself, ensuring Birmingham Hippodrome continues to contribute, and shape, the cultural life of the region over the coming decades .”

Vincent Garrington, General Manager at Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre and the Birmingham Conference & Events Centre (BCEC), said: “The Birmingham Hippodrome is an iconic venue for arts and culture and we are thrilled to support and mark 120 years of live performances through our recent sponsorship. As a major leisure destination in the heart of the city just like the BCEC, we felt that it was a great partnership.

“The gala evening was a fantastic celebration of the venue’s past, present and future. As I mentioned during my speech at the event, the greatest recognition our city can give to the important role that The Hippodrome plays in our society is to build the long awaited Hippodrome Square. The new square will ensure that Birmingham Southside cements its position as the city’s festival hub.”

Glenn Howells, Chair of Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust added: “Great cities have great cultural centres, and we want to ensure the Hippodrome is the cultural centre for Birmingham. Our ambition to transform the building and its foyer spaces will make the Hippodrome a space in the city that people can be creative in and enjoy without having to pay for a ticket”

The Gala was a highlight of a year-long programme of events celebrating 120 years of Birmingham Hippodrome. Upcoming events include a co-production with Curve Leicester of The Color Purple; a new production of West Side Story, Birmingham Hippodrome’s first home-grown youth production for the main stage, a new sculpture commission, and some special birthday celebrations in October with trademark Hippodrome surprises and flair.


Casting announced for award-winning Titanic the Musical

Casting announced for The five-time Tony Award-winning musical!

Casting has been confirmed for the first ever UK & Ireland Tour of Titanic The Musical. Directed by returning director Thom Southerland, 25 actors from across the country will take the production on its maiden UK and Ireland tour, to visit the cities and communities whose forebears built, manned and sailed on the famous ship.

A gala performance will be held in Southampton on 17 Apr, in the same city from which the RMS Titanic set sail.

In the final hour of 14 Apr 1912, the RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, collided with an iceberg and ‘the unsinkable ship’ slowly sank. It was one of the most tragic and infamous disasters of the 20th Century. 1517 men, women and children lost their lives.

Based on real people aboard the most legendary ship in the world, Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s stunning musical focuses on their hopes and aspirations. Unaware of the fate that awaits them, the Third Class immigrants dream of a better life in America, the newly-enfranchised Second Class dream of achieving the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and the millionaire Barons of the First Class dream of their mastery lasting forever.

The cast will feature eleven actors returning from Titanic The Musical’s performances at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, Southwark Playhouse and Charing Cross Theatre. The cast includes Alistair Barron (Titanic The Musical, Bumblescratch), Kieran Brown (The Phantom of the Opera, Chess), Greg Castiglioni (Titanic The Musical, Fiddler on the Roof), Lewis Cornay (The Break, Brothers), Alexander Evans (Eugenius, The Sound of Music), Simon Green (Titanic The Musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), Emma Harrold (Cinderella, The Sound of Music), Devon-Elise Johnson (Half a Sixpence, Mamma Mia), Claire Machin (Titanic The Musical, The Girls), Claire Marlowe (Titanic The Musical, The Importance of Being Earnest), Oliver Marshall as Bride (Blondel, Forty Years On), Matthew McDonald (Death Take a Holiday, A Christmas Carol), Chris McGuigan (Bananaman The Musical, West Side Story), Matthew McKenna (Bananaman The Musical, 42nd Street), Gemma McMeel (Big Fish, Royal Variety Performance), Janet Mooney (The Woman in White, The Braille Legacy), Joel Parnis (My Fair Lady, Les Miserables), Timothy Quinlan (Jersey Boys, Mack & Mabel), Philip Rham (Titanic The Musical, Dr Korczak’s Example), Dudley Rogers (Titanic The Musical, A Christmas Carol), Victoria Serra (Titanic The Musical, Mamma Mia), Niall Sheehy (Titanic The Musical, Miss Saigon), Judith Street (Titanic The Musical, The Girls) and Stephen Webb (Rothschild & Sons, Jersey Boys) & Samuel J Weir (Common, The Caucasian Chalk Circle).

Maury Yeston commented on the cast of the UK tour: “The idea that a troupe of actors will tour this show in the UK, birthplace of the ship, where the workers of Belfast, the cabin boys and maids and stewards from Liverpool, the officers and crew, the stokers and stevedores from the Midlands all created a miraculous floating city, means more to me than I can say. I am touched that, musically, Titanic will finally be coming home, sung by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of its builders – touched, and forever grateful.”

Opening at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton in April 2018, the critically acclaimed, multi award-winning production will transfer straight to Belfast, where the ship was constructed. From there, Titanic The Musical will visit 13 theatres nationwide.

“It’s an evening both shattering and gorgeous…

The day after seeing it, I went back to see it again. It’s that good.”

★★★★★ The Times

Having received its UK premiere in 2013 at Southwark Playhouse, the production returned to London in 2016 for an 11-week season at the Charing Cross Theatre, where it won overwhelming critical acclaim.

Titanic The Musical has music and lyrics by Maury Yeston (Nine, Grand Hotel, Phantom) and a book by Peter Stone (Woman of the Year and 1776). The pair have collectively won, including their previous works, an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, an Olivier Award and three Tony Awards for their works. The original Broadway production of Titanic The Musical won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book.

Titanic The Musical is produced by Danielle Tarento, Steven M Levy and Vaughan Williams, in association with Mayflower Theatre, Southampton.


Alistair Barron as Lightoller

Kieran Brown as Murdoch

Greg Castiglioni as Andrews

Lewis Cornay as Bellboy/Hartley

Simon Green as Ismay

Emma Harrold as Kate Mullins

Devon-Elise Johnson as Kate Murphy

Claire Machin as Alice Beane

Claire Marlowe as Lady Caroline

Oliver Marshall as Bride

Chris McGuigan as Jim Farrell

Matthew McKenna as Pitman/Etches

Joel Parnis as Fleet

Timothy Quinlan as Edgar Beane

Philip Rham as Captain Smith

Dudley Rogers as Isidor Straus

Victoria Serra as Kate McGowan

Niall Sheehy as Barrett

Judith Street as Ida Straus

Stephen Webb as Charles Clarke

Ensemble includes Alexander Evans, Matthew McDonald, Gemma McMeel, Janet Mooney & Samuel J Weir.

At Birmingham Hippodrome Mon 4 – Sat 9 Jun 2018.


Hidden Hippodrome - Celebrating Sir Cameron Mackintosh

In a year that marks Sir Cameron’s 50th anniversary in producing, Hippodrome Heritage Volunteer Ivan Heard has been looking back over some of the incredible productions Cameron has brought to Birmingham across the years. From Mary Poppins to Les Miserables right through to our 2017 summer blockbuster Miss Saigon…it’s no wonder that Sir Cameron is widely recognised to be one of the most influential and successful theatre producers of all time!

Sir Cameron Mackintosh this year celebrates 50 glorious years of theatre production. Many of his shows have graced the Hippodrome’s stage since the first, “Salad Days” in 1972, right up to this summer’s blockbuster “Miss Saigon”. He has been described as ” the most successful, influential and powerful theatrical producer in the world”.

Born on 17 October, 1946, at the age of eight he was taken by an aunt to see the original Vaudeville Theatre production of “Salad Days”, a small-scale intimate and thoroughly English musical by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds. He recalls running down the theatre aisle to chat to Julian Slade, then playing the piano in the orchestra pit – he showed Cameron how the “magic” piano worked and from then on the lad was smitten by the stage.

Leaving school at 17, Cameron attended the Central School of Speech and Drama but left half-way through because he wanted a more hands-on experience of the theatre. He was taken on by the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane as a stage-hand, even volunteering to clean the foyer and polish the circle brass! In 1965 he joined the touring cast of “Oliver!” as Assistant Stage Manager and also found himself on stage as one of the singing and dancing Londoners, even though he described himself as ” really quite terrible”. However, this musical remained close to Cameron’s heart and he later revived it on tour. It first played the Alexandra Theatre in 1977 and came to the Hippodrome in May, 1983, starring Roy Hudd and Jimmy Edwards. A version by the Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society in 1990 featured a 12-year old English bull terrier from Quinton as Bill Sykes’ dog “Bullseye”.

Back in the mid-1960s, Cameron Mackintosh set himself the target of becoming a producer in five years- he achieved it in less than three! His first venture in 1967 was to stage a season of plays, followed by tours of Agatha Christie favourites. His production of “A Man and His Wife” came to the Alex in 1969.

His first musical, “Anything Goes”, was put on when he was 23 and it was his first big flop. However, he learned many valuable lessons from this experience and, undaunted, he negotiated a deal with one of the West End’s most influential managers, Michael Codron, to tour some of his hit London plays, several of  which were staged at the Alex.

After Cameron’s first Hippodrome production, ” Salad Days” in 1972, his next show on our stage marked an important landmark in the history of regional theatre in Britain. “Oliver” had always been one of his most favourite shows and its 1977 tour had been highly successful. He had mounted a full replica of the original production, with no trimming or lack of quality because it was touring ( as had very often been the case when West End shows left London for the provinces). “Oliver!” had helped to keep many venues open at the time when Moss Empires were off-loading their big city centre theatres. In 1979, they sold the Hippodrome to Birmingham City Council for £50,000, who leased it to the Hippodrome Trust which continues to run it today.

Against this background, the Arts Council made a highly significent decision to back Cameron Mackintosh’s plan to stage top quality revivals of iconic musicals, not for London but for the regions. Some of their critics opposed this financial backing of the commercial theatre but it more than paid off.

Accordingly,in 1979, Cameron launched a newly designed ” My Fair Lady” that still managed to keep the spirit and high quality of the original. Opening at the Hippodrome on 20 February, it starred Birmingham-born Tony Britton, Liz Robertson and Dame Anna Neagle. It was big, lavish and beautifully costumed. (BHIPP; 2016.53).

To add to the opening night atmosphere, a flower stall was set up in the foyer and outside the Hippodrome in Hurst Street there was a hot potato and chestnuts wagon. Cameron Mackintosh, present at the opening, heard about it and ordered hot potatoes and chestnuts for the cast, crew and staff. Queues stretched around the block and extra supplies had to be brought in. As the audience were leaving, a Cockney flower seller offered her “luverly violets” for sale. Quite a night!

Cameron’s continued association with the Arts Council in 1980 brought to the Hippodrome a spectacular revival of “Oklahoma!”. But, around this time, he was also beginning to forge another association- this time with Andrew Lloyd Webber., who had already had a string of hit musicals, including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”,”Jesus Christ Superstar” and ” Evita”. Cameron was looking to do an original new musical and Andrew’s enthusiasm to stage a show based on T.S.Eliot’s ” Book of Practical Cats” came just at the right time.

Opening to acclaim at the New London Theatre on 11 May, 1981, “Cats” was to make all those involved in its production millionaires and to set new records for performances. It was first staged at the Hippodrome between March and June,1995.

“Cats” brought in new audiences, and with Cameron Mackintosh devoting detailed attention to every stage of production, including branding, advertising and merchandise, it cemented the success of the British “mega-musical”. Andrew Lloyd Webber had initiated the trend towards bigger, more spectacular musicals that had gone on to overseas success but, with Cameron on board, these hits shows went global on a never-before-seen scale for a British musical.

A smaller Andrew Lloyd Webber double-bill, ” Song and Dance”, with Marti Webb and Wayne Sleep, arrived at the Hippodrome in 1984, once again produced by Cameron Mackintosh.

The next mega-musical was “Les Miserables”, not this time with Andrew Lloyd Webber, but with two unknown composers- Tunis-born Alain Boublil and Frenchman Claude- Michel Schonberg. Cameron had heard the concept album and he knew he wanted to be associated with it. His involvement produced a show that re-defined the musical theatre- it was sung-through like an opera and it tackled huge themes on a sweeping scale. It was not upbeat or glamorous- quite the opposite- but it was to take audiences on a roller-coaster of emotions. After a very uncertain start at London’s Barbican, it opened at the Palace Theatre at the end of 1985 and another world-wide triumph was on its way to becoming voted ” the world’s favourite musical”. After over 30 years it is still running in the West End. It first came to the Hippodrome from June to September, 1997.

Even while Cameron Mackintosh was ensuring the success of “Les Miz”, his boundless energy was working back with Andrew Lloyd Webber:  “The Phantom of the Opera” was to become another worldwide mega-hit. Opening on 9 October, 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre, again over 30 years later it is still there, remarkably at the same theatre. It came first to the Hippodrome in 1998, ensuring sound finances for us! What an historic period in our history, with two of the world’s biggest musicals coming onto our stage within two years. However, “Phantom” was to be Cameron’s last collaboration with LloydWebber. The team had made the British mega-musical. Cameron returned to the composers of ” Les Miz”, who were now working on a re-interpretation of Puccini’s opera “Madam Butterfly”.  The emotional whirlwind of ” Miss Saigon” landed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 20 September, 1989- the very place where Cameron had begun as a stage-hand. The big four mega-musicals were now running simultaneously in the West End and on Broadway. What an achievement! “Miss Saigon” was first staged at the Hippodromein the summer of 2003.

Boublil and Schonberg’s next collaboration with Cameron Mackintosh, “Martin Guerre” was not as successful – it was here in May, 1999. Subsequently, Cameron returned to revivals of classic musicals, often in association with the National Theatre. “My Fair Lady” was one of them, returning to the Hippodrome in 2005

Cameron’s next big musical had been simmering for many years. In 1993, he finally worked his charm on P.L.Travers, the author of “Mary Poppins”, who entrusted him with producing a stage version of her books. She had hated the Walt Disney film in 1964 but maybe she was charmed in the end by Cameron presenting her with a cherry tree- after all, the Bankes family did live in Cherry Tree Lane!  This great family musical landed at the Hippodrome first in 2008, making a very welcome return in 2016.

There have been so many Cameron Mackintosh productions in the last 50 years and this has just been a skim over the major ones. Not only has he become the world’s most famous and successful producer of popular shows but he has also established the Mackintosh Foundation, with a Chair of Drama at Oxford University, which also funds a range of charities and helps to develop young musical talent for the future. He now owns nine West End theatres- the Prince of Wales,Gielgud,Queen’s,Wyndham’s, Noel Coward, Novello, Prince Edward, Ambassadors and the Victoria Palace.

Cameron’s influence on British musical theatre has been immense and prolific. He has secured the double – not only producing international hit shows but also helping to sustain a healthy regional theatre in our major cities. He has been a stickler for quality, right down to the last detail of merchandise, branding and ticket sales. Modestly, he once said “producers can’t instigate shows: they can only hope to find good material and make it better”. He has most certainly achieved that.

Cameron Mackintosh, colossus of British theatre, the Hippodrome salutes your 50 years and looks forward to staging many more of your shows.

Ivan Heard – Hippodrome Heritage Volunteer


Hidden Hippodrome - The Birth of the Mega Musical

From the soaring melodies and epic majesty of Miss Saigon to the magical sets and spectacular special effects of Mary Poppins – nothing sets our temperatures soaring here at the Hippodrome quite like a ‘mega-musical’! 

In countdown to the return of the original Broadway blockbuster, Miss Saigon, Hippodrome Heritage Volunteer, Ivan Heard, takes us on a magical ‘musical’ tour through the archives, re-tracing the genre’s evolution…

Sir Cameron Mackintosh, now marking 50 years as a producer, helped to revolutionise the British musical theatre and, together with Andrew Lloyd Webber, gave us the “mega-musical”.

The first English “musical” is generally regarded as being John Gay’s “The Beggar’s Opera”, a sensational London hit in 1728. It established the genre of the “ballad opera” which spread from Britain to America during the 19th century. European influences were also at play, particularly in operettas from the Strauss family in Vienna and Offenbach in Paris.

Between 1871 and 1896, the quintessentially English operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan were the rage of the West End but by 1896, the successful partnership had split up. However, their popularity endured and they were still being staged at the Hippodrome into the 1990s.

As the 20th century dawned, the musical had begun to blossom. In 1898, the American musical “The Belle of New York” had been a huge hit and this show could be regarded as the Hippodrome’s first tentative step into this genre. In 1911, a Variety bill included five scenes from the show; in 1978, the Birmingham and Midland Operatic Society performed it here.

Edwardian musical theatre was becoming more and more popular with shows like Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow” and “The Count of Luxembourg”; Lionel Monkton’s “The Quaker Girl” and “The Arcadians” were especially successful English musicals. Their enduring appeal is evident because they were revived on our stage in the 1960s by BMOS and the Forward Operatic Company.

These musicals transported audiences to romantic, idyllic places and were lavish with large casts. Such escapism was badly needed in WW1 and, in 1916, one of the biggest hits opened. “Chu Chin Chow” set records only beaten in the 1950s and soldiers on leave from the trenches flocked to His Majesty’s Theatre in the West End to revel in its spectacle. Here at the Hippodrome, it was staged by BMOS in 1958 and also on ice for the Christmas season in

The romance continued post-war with Noel Coward’s Bitter Sweet (1929) but the undoubted star of the 1930s and 1940s was Cardiff-born Ivor Novello, matinee idol, actor and composer. He had a string of hit shows at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, beginning with “Glamorous Night” in 1935. Novello’s musicals were indeed glamorous and romantic and full of beautiful melodies. Their popularity reached out to Hippodrome audiences right up to the 1980s, when Simon Ward starred here in ” Perchance To Dream”. Ivor’s last show, “Gay’s the Word” in 1951, brought its star Cicely Courtneidge to our stage and drew full houses.

Ivor Novello himself starred in his “The Dancing Years”, at the Hippodrome in January, 1945 and it was skated on ice at Christmas, 1954. However, by then the next big musical influence had been coming over from America, courtesy of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Gone were the frivolous song and dance shows; here were stronger musicals that dealt with real issues and substantial characters. The songs and dances (even some of them incorporating ballet sequences) were fully integrated with the plot and characters. The first of this new genre was “Oklahoma!”, whose first national tour went to the Theatre Royal in New Street. The Hippodrome,still then mainly a Variet theatrey, did not stage it until November, 1961.

Next up was “South Pacific”, again going first to the Theatre Royal in 1953 with a cast that included in the chorus an unknown Sean Connery.. BMOS revived it here in 1960 and, for their 75th Birthday, they staged for the first time at the Hippodrome “The King and I”.

But the Americans did not have it all their own way. During the 1950s, there were two British musicals that set new records. “The Boy Friend” by Sandy Wilson opened in 1953 and became a hit both in the West End and on Broadway. The following year Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds’ small-scale and intimate “Salad Days” opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in the Strand for a run that exceeded 2,000 performances. It first came to the Hippodrome in June, 1960.

When he was eight years old, Cameron Mackintosh was taken to see “Salad Days” and it was this show that sowed the show business seed in him.

In 1960, a pioneering British musical opened to poor advance sales at London’s New Theatre; very soon, however, a massive hit was created. Lionel Bart’s “Oliver!” transformed stage presentation with its landmark Sean Kenny sets and new technology enabled scenes to be changed in full view of the audience. It was brimming with great songs and dances and placed the British musical on a higher level. Cameron Mackintosh joined the show’s first national tour as Assistant Stage Manager and also performed as one of the singing and dancing Cockneys.

We must jump some excellent shows in the 1960s to the next great development in musicals. Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyricist Tim Rice, had begun their partnership with a small-scale production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” but in 1970 the rock musical ” Jesus Christ Superstar” exploded on to the stage of the Palace Theatre in the West End and the genre of the ” mega-musical” was being created. Its staging at the Hippodrome in 1981 opened a newly refurbished theatre with all the facilities to stage the forthcoming mammoth shows.

“Evita” followed in 1976 and Lloyd Webber’s collaboration with Cameron Mackintosh pushed the boundaries further with the spectacle and technical wizardry of “Cats” (1981) and “The Phantom of the Opera” in 1986.

At the Hippodrome, a spectacular London Palladium production of “Joseph” with Philip Schofield in 1994 set up a record-breaking run, followed by another sell-out with “Phantom” in 1998. “Joseph” had created a Hippodrome record when it became the first show to take more than £1 million on the first day of advance booking.

Another Cameron Mackintosh collaboration, this time with Alain Boublil and Claude- Michel Schonberg, produced the phenomenon that is “Les Miserables”, voted “the world’s favourite musical”. It had a four month season at the Hippodrome in 1997. The same partnership in 1989 created “Miss Saigon”, staged here first in 2003 and now returning for a third time.

These massive British musicals went global and became international hits. The so-called “Big Four” conquered the world, in no small part due to the brilliant entrepreneurial skills of Cameron Mackintosh. His attention to detail at every stage of production included branding, merchandising and ticketing and ensured that, wherever the shows were staged, they maintained the same high standards and quality.

Inevitably, there was a reaction to these mega-musicals and popular taste now also takes in the so-called “juke box musicals” like” Mama Mia!” and “We Will Rock You” with their thin plots and succession of hit songs. The genre of “family musical” has become successful with shows like “Mary Poppins”, The Lion King”, ” Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Beauty and the Beast”.

I have had to miss out so many wonderful landmark musicals – “West Side Story” and “My Fair Lady”, for example – but they have all been staged at the Hippodrome over its eventful 118 years. The stalwart work of BMOS and the Forward Operatic Company was important in reviving the memory of many of those old musicals like “The Student Prince”, “Rose Marie” and “The Desert Song”. They maybe would not be so popular with modern audiences but at least they were not forgotten.

We have come a long way since our first full-scale musical, “Me and My Girl” in 1939, but the ingredients of a good musical remain the same- a good story, great songs and dances and quality productions. Long may that continue!


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