Yesterday morning, details of the upcoming Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs pantomime by the Birmingham Hippodrome in association with Qdos Entertainment were released as part of a special media launch. Members of the press were invited to meet with the cast, including its newly revealed leading lady, Danielle Hope, the 21-year-old winner of the BBC’s Over the Rainbow series.
Along with a couple of my fellow First Night Bloggers, I was lucky enough to be invited along to the launch to catch a glimpse of some of the show’s fantastic set and costumes. After a brief introduction in which we were duly reminded that there were only 92 (now 91) shopping days until Christmas, and only 84 days till the opening of the UK’s biggest pantomime, the cast were revealed in all their glittering, camped-up splendour to an audience which was almost as excited as they were.
Stephanie Beacham swanned around as an impressively imperious Wicked Queen, her icy image only slightly marred when she took five for a coffee, clutching an incongruous paper cup between long glitzy fingers in pointed, elongated gloves. Young talent Danielle Hope looked every bit the innocent, girlish beauty amongst her more experienced colleagues, while true to form, Gok Wan rattled off jokes and wisecracks, primarily about his own tight-fitting, futuristic Man in the Mirror get-up. Said outfit was described by one interviewer as “Storm Trooper meets Dynasty”: Gok’s own interpretation was rather earthier.
Once the discussion got underway, members of the cast shared their experiences of Birmingham, of pantomimes and of other similar acting roles. Self-dubbed “panto veteran” Matt Slack (set to play the Queen’s henchman Oddjob), will join Gary Wilmot (the Dame), John Partridge (the Prince) and ventriloquist Paul Zerdin (Muddles), who between them boast a sizeable list of Birmingham Hippodrome panto credits. For Stephanie Beacham, her role in this show is a familiar one, and something of a return to roots: her first experience of the stage was as the Wicked Queen in a pantomime in Golders Green. More recently, she portrayed Elizabeth I at the Birmingham REP, whom she described as “another wicked queen” of sorts. Although new to pantomime, Danielle Hope’s experience playing Dorothy in the West End has amply prepared her for this fairy-tale part as, perhaps, has her favourite childhood past-time of dressing up as princess Snow White. Meanwhile Gok Wan claimed that he’d only come over to Southside for a Chinese takeaway, and had been rather surprised to find himself sitting in front of an audience looking, in his own words, “gayer than ever”.
Yet, even for those more accustomed to stage acting and pantomimes particularly, this was an occasion for many “firsts”: it was Matt Slack’s first time in a Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime, Gary Wilmot’s first time in a dress, and Danielle Hope’s first time in the fair city of Birmingham.
A time for firsts and a time for bests, perhaps? Said Michael Harrison, Managing Director of Qdos Entertainment’s Pantomime Division and Director of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:
“I’m thrilled and delighted to have assembled this galaxy of stars for this year’s spectacular Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime. It’s a long time since Snow White was last performed at the theatre and it seems fitting that its return as Britain’s biggest pantomime should feature such an incredible cast. This brand-new production is set to be the most spectacular Birmingham has ever seen.”
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be showing at the Birmingham Hippodrome from Thursday 19th December 2013 until Sunday 2 February 2014. Tickets are available via the Birmingham Hippodrome website. A relaxed performance, specially adapted for people with learning difficulties, will take place on Thursday 30th January.
Click here to watch the BBC Midlands Today coverage of the launch.