Birmingham Hippodrome Re-Opens
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22 months of closure, the newly restored Hippodrome Theatre re-opens
this week. The official opening is on Tuesday, 13th November,
when the theatre hosts “The Silver Gala”, performed by the
Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Ugly Sisters, Peter & Nigel were summoned to the Hippodrome last
week to try out the new dressing rooms and to take part in the media
coverage of the new building. The jewel of the Hippodrome, the beautiful
Victorian auditorium has been preserved, and redecorated in shades of
cream and silver, with the chandeliers from the old foyer taking pride
of place in the boxes, which now carry the theatre’s original date,
1899 on one side, and on the other that of its rebirth, 2001.
played this theatre on many occasions, the sheer scale of the rebuilding
was the first thing that astonished us. Apart from one section, where
the old dressing rooms were located, the rest of this vast new building
was a step into the unknown. Getting lost was quite easy for the first
day, until gradually we got to work out the various routes backstage and
front of house. The new dressing room block is a sight to warm the
hearts of actors, singers and dancers everywhere- it is state of the
art, spacious and will be a sheer joy to use during a season at the
new block of dressing rooms are located in a square, overlooking a
garden-style atrium. Natural daylight pours in through the glass roof
several stories above, and each room has a view of this atrium through
large patio style doors. Every room is individually air-conditioned with
showers, toilets and excellent lighting. All are on stage level (very
different from the old rooms) and a clever design feature means when
everyone has vacated the room, the lights go out automatically. You step
into the room, and the lighting kicks in again- the same with corridors
when there is no movement. A wise energy saving device. The rooms will
be equipped with lockers, refrigerators in some cases, and television
monitors, in addition to the tannoy facilities and telephone sockets.
Backstage catering takes place a few floors above in a green room that
overlooks the atrium, access via lifts or the impressive spiral
staircase at the new stage door in Hurst street.
of house, a new impressive foyer, which along with the backstage area
offers excellent disabled facilities, leads to several floors of bars,
kiosks and cloakrooms serving every level of the auditorium. Large glass
lifts are at the centre of each level, with natural light from huge
glass windows. These have been etched to reflect stage “tabs” or
curtains by Liz Rideal. Douglas Fir cladding has been used in the foyer
areas which lead to the auditorium, and to the new 206 seater Patrick
Centre for performing arts. Leith’s Restaurant is on the first floor,
overlooking Hurst Street.
new building also houses DanceXchange, which has offices and four new
studios hosting a range of public dance classes and projects. The
Birmingham Royal Ballet also enjoys the Jerwood Centre for the
Prevention and treatment of dance injuries, which provides care for the
BRB and other companies in Britain and abroad.
Looking around the new building, it is obvious that we are looking at one of the most modern and well equipped houses in Europe. The £28.8 million rebuild includes Birmingham’s newest and largest public work of art- it’s safety curtain. Artist Balraj Khanna has created a painting “Astral Dance” 42 feet wide by 26 feet high on the Theatre’s safety curtain, taking him a total of six weeks. The painting is abstract, with geometric elements- shapes that seem to escape the surface of the painting.
The Ugly Sisters will be part of the foyer entertainment on opening night, meeting and greeting the guests as they arrive to watch “The Silver Gala”- so obviously, our finest silver creations are the order of the day! See below for the report on opening night !!
official re-opening of the newly refurbished Hippodrome took place on
Tuesday 13th of November, and repeated again the following
night to accommodate the vast audiences who flocked to admire their new
Ugly Sisters, decked out in silver were at the foyer door to welcome the
2,000 strong audiences as they entered the building for the first time,
serenaded by a brass band. Among the celebrities attending the opening
were Brian Conley, who stars in this year’s panto “Dick
Whittington”, and his wife Anne Marie Conley, with Jasper Carrott, Pam
Ayres, Don Mclean (Sarah the Cook in this panto season) Radio presenter
Ed Doolan, television’s Kay Alexander and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham
and Lady Mayoress. Paul Elliott and his wife Linda Hayden attended, as
did representatives of Qdos, the producers of this year’s pantomime.
the four new foyers filled up, the guests discovered the “Living”
statues situated on each floor as they enjoyed complimentary drinks and
canapés before entering the silver and cream auditorium to enjoy the
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s “The Silver Gala”. The theme being
silver, most of the audience were dressed in silver, the ladies mostly
in sequins and many gentlemen sporting silver waistcoats, cravats and
ballet included extracts from BRB successes such as” Four Scottish
Dancers, “, “Hobson’s Choice” director David Bintley’s new
ballet “The Seasons” and the “Still life at the penguin café”
with dancing fleas, penguin waiters and zebras. It was a fitting tribute
to the BRB’s return to their rightful home.
the end of the performance each member of the audience was presented
with an engraved miniature tray, or engraved silver bookmark to
celebrate this historic occasion, and were waved off by the
indefatigable Ugly Sisters shortly after eleven o’clock.
It was such a pleasure to be a small part of this historic opening, and we wish the “Hippo” a very long and healthy future as the premier home of pantomime! Our sincere best wishes and thanks to all who work at the Hippodrome!
This page was last updated 9th June 2002