Tuesday, 18 December 2012

ROBINSON CRUSOE (Birmingham Hippodrome) Review December 2012

Britain's biggest pantomime sails into Birmingham and it truly is swashbuckling fun and hilarity... with the Conley slant on things, of course.

Right from the off it's clear that this is the pantomime of the 21st Century, combining panto traditions with the latest exciting technology. In flies a video screen and a message from the main man himself - Brian Conley has everyone in hysterics before the show has even properly begun.

A ship sails onto the stage and is magnificent in size and detail, Ian Westbrook's design for the whole production is breathtaking. The sets are lavish and are a far cry from the days of the painted backcloth. 

Joining Brian as the beautiful Polly is local girl Kathryn Rooney, re-uniting the duo that played Buttons and Cinderella in last year's Hippodrome pantomime, and there's more than the odd reference to that! They make a wonderful team and work well to keep the audience enthused and entertained. The close of act one, without wanting to spoil too much is a moment of pure joy that echoes Brian Conley's days at the London Palladium as Caractacus Potts.

Mrs Crusoe is perhaps one of the lesser known pantomime dames, but Andrew Ryan ensures that she is one of your favourite. His facial expressions in particular are most hilarious. Andrew knows how to work an audience and can rock a dress better than a lot of women ever could. Just like Nigel Ellacott in Wolverhampton this year Andrew is a master of the multi-layer strip routine. Wolverhampton and Birmingham are blessed with the best dames in the business this year. James Patterson pictured with Andrew above is a great addition as Polly's father, the Major General. Gavin Woods makes a boo-able baddie. 

Swooping in from the flys on her enchanted shell is the Enchantress of the Ocean Lesley Joseph (Calendar Girls). Lesley acts as a narrator and regularly casts magic spells to further the story. One of the shows highlights is her song 'It's Me' that features a chorus of merpeople. It's a large cast and made up of ten dancers the ensemble are an experienced group who really shine in Lesley's number, literally. The ensemble are Simon Campbell, Stephanie Elstob, Rachel Ensor, Jamie Ray Hartshorne, James Hughes-Ward, Jane McMurtrie, Sergio Milella, Elliot Nixon, Soeli Parry and Kimmi Richards.

Earl R Perkins is the hunky islander Friday who together with Kathryn is involved in a scene in which a tree does his hair... yes that's right - Conley is rather random. There are puppets aplenty, of course greeted with the famous catchphrase. 

Another scene of particular hilarity involves Brian Conley, an apple and Kathryn Rooney's face. There really is humour for everyone of all ages and of all humour types; slapstick, witty, dry, random, ridiculous... it's got it all. 

Wait... we're not done yet! Not only does the pantomime have all of that, but what pantomime is as entertaining without a troupe of Cossack dancers!? The Mazeppa Cossacks are a surprise and thrilling addition to the show and of course it wouldn't be fair to not let Brian in on the fun. 

Audience participation in this show is unlike any other. The audience are filmed onto a large screen, Helen from Row D got up and danced Gangnam Style on stage, and there were plenty of opportunities for the children to be a part, especially in a rendition of I Am The Music Man which provides Brian the opportunity for some very funny ad-lib with the children.

There really is nothing left out of this pantomime, it has every old tradition and every new invention. This has to be the largest scale pantomime production you will see this year. Completely unmissable. The Birmingham Hippodrome is the only theatre to host a professional production of Robinson Crusoe this year and so it surely is the place to be!

Call the box office on 0844 338 5000 or book tickets online here: http://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/WhatsOn_focus.asp?showId=1737

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