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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.

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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


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Meet the cast and crew of Titanic The Musical

With just over two weeks until Titanic The Musical docks at Birmingham Hippodrome, find out what happened when Diane Parkes went behind-the-scenes of the stirring and spectacular new stage production to meet some of the local stars of the show.

When Claire Machin was 12 years old she made her theatrical debut – in the musical Annie at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Those performances convinced her that acting was her future – and 35 years later, 47-year-old Claire is returning to the Hippodrome in the tour of Titanic the Musical.

“It was 1983 and I was 12 and I auditioned for Annie. It was the first UK tour after the London performance and they were auditioning for some orphans,” she recalls. “My mum and dad took me to an open call and there were hundreds and hundreds of kids.

“You had to be under a certain height. They had something like a Mickey Mouse and you had to fit under his ears – it was a bit like getting on a rollercoaster!”

Claire, who grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, gained the part of July which she played for around six weeks at the Hippodrome – a theatre where she has performed many times during her career.

“Every time I go back to the Hippodrome I have a real fondness for that theatre,” she says. “I only have to open the stage door and the smell takes me back to being that 12-year-old girl with my little Annie canvas bag. It’s always an excited feeling when I come back to the Hippodrome.”

As a youngster, Claire watched amateur dramatics at the Queens Theatre in Burslem.

“I would sit in the balcony at the side. Just hearing the orchestra tuning up and the hustle and bustle – I just loved it. There was a local actress and the first time I saw her was in Mack and Mabel and I was in love with her and the idea of being her! I never wanted to do anything but acting.”

Titanic the Musical comes to Birmingham Hippodrome on June 4-9 as part of the show’s first UK tour. A vastly reworked version of the 1997 Broadway musical, this production was premiered at London’s Southwark Playhouse in 2013, played Toronto in Canada and Tokyo and Osaka in Japan and was staged at Charing Cross Theatre in London in 2016.

This tour is the first time Claire has been in the production which sees all of the actors playing a variety of different roles.

“What is so special about Titanic the Musical is that it’s not a show about a ship – it’s about the people on that ship,” she says. “It’s very relatable when you think about things like 9/11 and Grenfell Tower.

“We rush about in our busy lives but this will be a moment when the audience sits for two hours and is hopefully enthralled in these people’s lives. There is somebody there on stage who everyone can relate to – audience members will see characters and think ‘that’s me’.

“I think the audience will really feel something for those characters in that tragic situation. It’s good to be reminded of the human story and the human cost to life.”

Claire’s key character is Alice Beane, a second class passenger.

“It’s really easy to make Alice seem aspirational and a Hyacinth Bucket type character and I feel I owe it to Alice to ensure there is more to her than that,” she says.

“I love Alice – she is so excited to be getting on this ship which is a wonder of the new world and she’s determined to get into the first class lounge and make friends. Being American it was OK to want more and she speaks for a world which was changing.”

Simon Green, who plays J Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, the company which launched the Titanic, also first discovered theatre locally. Born in Solihull and a student at Cedarhurst and Solihull Schools, it was the Royal Shakespeare Company which inspired his love of acting.

“We lived in Baddesley Clinton and because we were close to Stratford-upon-Avon my parents took me to see Shakespeare’s As You Like It when I was about eight,” he recalls. “Dorothy Tutin was playing Rosalind and I watched and went ‘that’s what I want to do’.

“I hardly knew what it was and had hardly been to the theatre but I just knew. I did my O-levels and went to Stratford College which had a ground-breaking drama course with A-levels and then went to London and trained.”

Since then, 60-year-old Simon has built a successful career in theatre taking roles in a range of works from Phantom of the Opera to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and winning a New York Drama Desk Award for his show Life is for Living.

He played the role of Ismay in the Southwark production and again in Toronto and takes on Ismay’s mantle again for the tour.

“Ismay is a really good part and the show is an extraordinary piece of work,” Simon says. “It’s a perfect piece of theatre. The response from the audience on the first performance was astonishing really – I don’t think we’d really realised what we’d got until then. It’s very powerful.

“With Ismay, Titanic was his pride and joy and he went on the maiden voyage and I suppose most famously he is the man who pushed it to go faster and faster because they wanted it to be the fastest ocean liner in the world.

“And he got on the life boat and came back and was vilified for it and called a coward. But after he came back he was the man who led the vanguard in changing all the rules in maritime travel and making it safer. So out of the tragedy came some good.

“Ismay is not the villain. He didn’t set out to kill anybody but it was through his ambition, need and desire that this terrible thing happened. There is no single element which made the tragedy of the Titanic happen.”

However Simon’s Ismay sometimes does sometimes spark an interesting response from audience members.

“When we did the show in Toronto, after the performances, we would walk past the exit to the car park and people who had just seen the show would wind down their windows and boo me – but I like to think they booed me with love!”

For Emma Harrold, being a student at the University of Birmingham between 2008-2011 aided her career path to the stage.

Emma, who is from St Albans, studied classics at the university and spent a good deal of her time performing in student productions.

“I had danced since I was three and had been in dance competitions on stage since I was six,” she says. “I loved doing it and at the age of 16 I had started doing lots of am dram.

“I was torn between going to drama school or university and I decided I was a bit too young to go to drama school so decided to go a really big university which I knew had extra-curricular drama and quite famous alumni.

“Then at the freshers’ fair I immediately went to the musical theatre stand and said ‘I want to be in your next production’. We did Hot Mikado which was great. Over that time I got to play some great parts in some great plays.

“Being in Birmingham I went to all of the theatres,  the Rep, the Alexandra, the Hippodrome, and saw all of these productions coming through and it all secured in my mind that I wanted to be an actor. So when I graduated I had a gap year and then did a post-graduate diploma in musical theatre at the Royal Academy of Music.”

Since then, 27-year-old Emma has been in a number of productions, including Happy Days at the Hippodrome four years ago – and she was keen to be involved in Titanic the Musical.

“As soon as Titanic came up I had my eye on it,” she says. “I watched the film of Titanic when it first came out and I remember it being really traumatic. I actually said I would never watch it again it was so sad – so maybe I was drawn to this production to exorcise some demons!

“I’m a newbie to the cast and the first weeks of rehearsals, rehearsing with people who have done this show maybe one, two or even three times before, I’ve been so excited to see how passionate they are about the project.

“I knew it was a great musical before I auditioned but it’s also understanding that we are in quite a unique position telling this wonderful and tragic story. We are recreating people who are not unlike us but lived 100 years ago and thought they were embarking on the most exciting period of their life – and obviously some made it and some poor souls didn’t. There is something thrilling about bringing this to life.”

Emma plays the role of Kate Mullins, a third class passenger on the ship.

“She’s Irish, from Donegal, and she makes her way to the Titanic to start a new life in America. Her dream is to become a sewing girl. She meets two other girls, also called Kate, also Irish, on the boarding of the Titanic and they start this very exciting journey together.”

And Emma has come to feel a real empathy for Kate.

“When people think about the story of the Titanic they think about a really fantastic ship which crashed into an iceberg and sank. But I think as we have gone through the rehearsals we’ve been seeing the people as an interactive living museum in which we are paying homage to them.”


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Landmark Musical Returns To Where It All Began

Few musicals have captured the hearts and minds of audiences quite like the multi-award winning Blood Brothers. Returning to Birmingham Hippodrome for two weeks from Mon 10 – Sat 22 Oct, the smash-hit musical will see actress and singer Lyn Paul reprise her iconic role as Mrs Johnstone, a part she first took on in 1996/1997, having first shot to fame as a member of The New Seekers in the 1970s.

Affectionately christened “the standing ovation musical” by The Daily Mail, what began life as a secondary school play has since grown into a worldwide phenomenon and remains, to this day, one of only three musicals to surpass the milestone of 10,000 performances in London’s West End.

Written by Liverpool playwright, composer and director Willy Russell, Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret. The memorable score includes A Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True.

To celebrate Blood Brothers’ 10th visit to Birmingham Hippodrome in 2016, cast members Lyn Paul (Mrs Johnstone), Sean Jones (Mickey Johnstone) and Joel Eldridge (Eddie Lyons) joined Hippodrome staff and members of the press on stage for a celebratory photo call and a slice of cake on Tues 11th October before heading off to warm-up for their evening show.

Blood Brothers famously ran for 24 years in London, making it the 5th longest-running show ever to appear on the West End behind The Mousetrap, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera and The Woman in Black.

The first production of Blood Brothers to be performed at Birmingham Hippodrome opened on 7 Aug 1995 starring Helen Reddy as Mrs Johnstone. The production was also the first version of the show to be performed outside of the West End.

The current production of Blood Brothers, starring Lyn Paul, is the tenth version of the show to take place at Birmingham Hippodrome over its 30 year history.

Blood Brothers runs until Sat 22 Oct at Birmingham Hippodrome. For tickets, call 0844 338 5000 or visit


Full Cast Announcement for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard

Joining the previously announced Ria Jones as ‘Norma Desmond’ and Danny Mac as ‘Joe Gillis’ will be Adam Pearce as ‘Max Von Mayerling’, Molly Lynch as ‘Betty Schaefer’, Dougie Carter as ‘Artie Green’ and Carl Sanderson as ‘Cecil B DeMille’.

The rest of the company includes Bernadette Bangura, Matthew Barrow, Benjamin Chambers, Joanna Goodwin, Kristoffer Hellström, Iain Mattley, James Meunier, Gemma Naylor, Fiona O’Carroll, Joanna O’Hare, Jessica Paul, Sam Peggs, Tom Vincent and Barney Wilkinson

Last year, Ria Jones played the role of ‘Norma Desmond’ at the London Coliseum when Glenn Close was indisposed, receiving rave reviews and standing ovations for her performance. Ria has recently starred as ‘Dorothy Brock’ in “42nd Street” at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Her West End credits include ‘Fantine’ in “Les Misérables”, ‘Grizabella’ in “Cats” and ‘Florence’ in “Chess”. Her touring credits include ‘Alex’ in “The Witches of Eastwick”, ‘Mrs Overall’ in “Acorn Antiques – The Musical”, ‘Reno Sweeney’ in “Anything Goes” and ‘The Narrator’ in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.

Danny Mac captured the nation’s hearts and received overwhelming support during his incredible time on BBC1’s “Strictly Come Dancing” making it all the way to the final. He most recently starred as ‘Gabey’ in “On The Town” at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. His other musical theatre credits include “Wicked” and “Legally Blonde”.

Adam Pearce’s many West End credits include “Les Misérables” at the Queen’s Theatre, as well as the original casts of “Love Never Dies” at the Adelphi, “The Light Princess at the National Theatre and “Urinetown” at the St James Theatre.  Adam has also appeared in “Evita”, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Sweeney Todd”, all at the Adelphi.

Molly Lynch most recently appeared in English National Opera’s “Carousel” at the Coliseum, where she has also appeared in “Sweeney Todd”. Her other credits include “Fiddler on the Roof” at Grange Park Opera.

Dougie Carter recently played ‘Jean-Michel’ in the national tour of “La Cage Aux Folles”. His West End theatre credits include “Les Misérables” at the Queen’s Theatre and “Alice” at St James Theatre.

Carl Sanderson’s many West End credits include “Cats”, “The Phantom of the Opera”, “Acorn Antiques – The Musical” and “Starlight Express”. His other theatre credits include the national tours of “My Fair Lady” and “Hairspray” as well as “Guys and Dolls”, “The Music Man” and “The Pajama Game” all at Chichester Festival Theatre.

One of the all-time great musicals, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award®-winning (Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical) masterpiece SUNSET BOULEVARD is a compelling story of romance and obsession, based on Billy Wilder’s legendary film, with Don Black and Christopher Hampton’s wonderful book and lyrics. This much-loved score includes the title number Sunset Boulevard, With One Look, As If We Never Said Goodbye, The Greatest Star Of All and The Perfect Year and will be performed by a full orchestra.

In her mansion on Sunset Boulevard, faded, silent-screen goddess, Norma Desmond, lives in a fantasy world. Impoverished screen writer, Joe Gillis, on the run from debt collectors, stumbles into her reclusive world. Persuaded to work on Norma’s ‘masterpiece’, a film script that she believes will put her back in front of the cameras, he is seduced by her and her luxurious life-style.  Joe becomes entrapped in a claustrophobic world until his love for another woman leads him to try and break free with dramatic consequences.

On Mon 13 – Sat 18 of November – tickets can information can be found here.


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