Bonfire Night Fun – Finding A Local Display

 

Remember, Remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot. Bonfire night is one of my favourite nights of the year, I love the chance to get wrapped up in your new Winter woollies, watching the sky light up with the most beautiful fireworks, keeping warm around a bonfire, whilst filling my face with hotdogs and hot chocolate. In general, I am not a fan of the great outdoors once Summer is ended, but for Bonfire Night I will make an exception.

During my childhood it was the norm to have a bonfire and fireworks in your garden, with Catherine Wheels tied to fence posts, bangers that made a lot of noise but did very little else, and everyone, including the nans and grandads and the smallest of children, holding a sparkler. But these days, health and safety implications, and the importing of so many unsafe fireworks has led to a rise in the popularity of organised firework events. There are so many lovely, organised displays that often tie in the fun of the fair, food stalls and fireworks that are really exceptional in their size and style, that it is now a whole family event to go to a real bonfire display.

Tomorrow my family will all be attending a bonfire at my son’s school, we’ve been for the last three years and it is always a great, professional display which also raises a lot of money for the school. If you are still looking for an organised display that is local to you, Families Online have produced a great guide to local displays this November. This covers most major towns and Cities, as well as Sea Front displays and those taking place in public parks and stately homes – a wide range of displays both large and small. To find a display you simply enter your postcode or town and then a list of displays will come up, along with entrance fees and a handy map to help you find your way.

If you are going to a bonfire and fireworks display this year, there are a few handy tips that you can use in order to make your night go with a bang. The first is that you wrap up accordingly. The weather might be pretty mild for November, but once the sun goes down, it can be pretty chilly. Hat and gloves are a must, with leather gloves being a great idea if you are the sort of person who gets ketchup everywhere. Another way to keep warm and snug is to get there early to grab a spot near the bonfire – just head any safety signs and don’t get too close. Bonfires and firework displays are fun for all the family, but they can be very loud, which can be quite frightening for younger children (my boy is almost 9 and is still quite wary of the big bangs). For very young children ear protectors can be a sensible way to enjoy the lights and avoid the bangs.

Whatever you decide to do this November 5th, have lots of fun and, most importantly, stay safe.

Frothy and Fabulous – Hairspray arrives in Birmingham

Big, bold, bright and beautiful and that could just be describing the leading lady Tracey Turnblad, Hairspray arrived in suitably glittering style at the Birmingham Hippodrome last night. The musical, which mixes the fun and frolics of the Corny Collins show, with the dark undercurrents of racial inequality in 1960s Baltimore, received a standing ovation from an ecstatic audience who had been thoroughly entertained. As the final song exclaims, you really can’t stop the beat. Last night, Birmingham couldn’t stop the beat!

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Tracey Turnblad is a big girl growing up in 1960s Baltimore, but that doesn’t stop her being confident, cool and full of ambitions. She wants to be the newest dancer on the Corny Collins show and wants to win the man of her dreams, teen hunk Link Larkin. Whilst spending time in detention (again) she forms a friendship with black teenager Seaweed and his friends, a group she had seen on the Corny Collins show during ‘Negro Day’. They teach her their style of dancing (the Peyton Place) and she soon catches the eye of both Corny Collins and her beloved Link, but buoyed by her loving and supportive parents Edna and Wilbur, and Seaweed’s mother, Motormouth Maybelle, her dreams start to shift to something more serious and important, racial integration on the Corny Collins show. It is a serious message of ugly times, hidden in the froth and fun of the brightest musical around.

The whole ensemble cast is faultless, there is not a wrong move, with exceptional singing and dancing, comedic episodes and moments of real pathos. But there are still standouts even within the perfection. The brilliant Rebecca Mendoza, in her stage debut,  was born to play Tracey, she is a ball of energy and enthusiasm who literally lights up the stage – you are always waiting for her to return to the stage when she is not there.  Her partner in crime is the hilarious Annalise Liard-Bailey as Penny Pingleton, all sweetness and dipsy one liners.  Teen Dream support is also offered by Layton Williams and Edward Chitticks as Seaweed and Link, both showing great singing talent and skilled dance moves. Layton Williams in particular, is a polished and charismatic performer, another stand out in a cast at the top of its game.

As Edna and Wilbur, Matt Rixon and Norman Pace are wonderful, their sense of comedic timing only matched by the warmth and charm of their performances. Gina Murray hams up a storm as the manipulative Velma Von Tussle, having great fun in her villainous role, while Brenda Edwards (Motormouth Maybelle) manages to just about bring the house down with her emotional, passionate performance of ‘I know where I’ve been’. All in all, the perfect cast performing the perfect feel good musical.

With costumes to die for, infectious, retro sounding songs that you feel like you’ve heard before, and a live band on stage providing the icing on the cake, Hairspray is a fabulous treat you should definitely indulge in this Autumn.As those dark nights draw in, Hairspray brings a riot of sparkle and colour. Go see!

Hairspray

 

Tuesday 10th – Saturday 14th October, Birmingham Hippodrome.

Click here for ticket information

 

Aladdin Weaves A Magic Spell at the Birmingham Hippodrome

I think that even adults need the magic of fairy tales in their lives, and last night I was transported to the land of beautiful Princesses, handsome heroes and magic lamps when I attended the press preview of Aladdin by the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

This production by David Bintley is an exquisite triumph, perfect entertainment for the whole family, with scenes that amuse, romantic sequences that charm, and an wholly engaging cast that keep you entertained throughout.

The story is kept thankfully familiar, Mathias Dingman is wonderful as Aladdin, playing the role as a likeable cheeky chappy who gets himself into troubles that almost cost him his head. He rescued by sinister Maghrib who sets him the task to find a magic lamp. This leads to a scene of sheer enchantment as Aladdin progresses through a truly beautiful cave, where the myriad of rubies, emeralds and sapphires are bought to life by a series of energetic dances, before Aladdin finally reaches the centre of the cave, and thus the lamp. The scenery in this particular section is stunning, I loved the stalagmites in a multitude of colours that echo the variety of gems in the cave.

The cave scene is a real favourite, bit there were many other sections to enjoy, not least of which was the wedding dance of the Chinese Dragon, resplendent in white and gold, and actually Aladdin’s friends (Kit Holder and Lachlan Monagham). And I loved the romance of the bathhouse scene, where Aladdin and the beautiful princess ( the always sublime Momoko Hirata) first meet properly and fall in love, their dancing is joyful and tender and is just lovely. In terms of the characterisations, The Maghrib (Iain Mackay)  is a suitably dark and devilish bad guy with plenty of swigger and presence, whilst the blue genie (Tzu-Chao Chou) is both magical and genial, and delights every time he appears. Aladdin’s mother, the legendary Marion Tait, brings forth the comic element, especially in the scene in the Chinese Laundry.

 

A mention must be made of the set, which is almost an extra character in this ballet. You really are transferred to a mysterious cave, a luxurious bathhouse, a magnificent palace and a house that doubles as a Chinese laundry, and set changes are quick and seamless.

This is just a perfect night out for the whole family, delighting the audience by old and young. A total feast for the eyes and for the ears, with the Carl Davis score illuminating each scene majestically, Aladdin shows that ballet can be funny, entertaining and touching in equal parts.

Aladdin

Birmingham Hippodrome

Wed 4 – Sat 7th October

Click here for ticket information.