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Why Birmingham pantomime is the fairest in all the land

Birmingham local and panto regular Ed James explains why his pantomime is better than all the rest

Beverley Knight, who is starring in this year's pantomime in Birmingham
© Simon Hadley

Our new Christmas blog series gives audiences the chance to rave about their own pantomime. Here, Birmingham regular Ed James explains why he thinks there's no other place to get your pantomime fix this festive season than at his local, which this year is Cinderella starring Beverley Knight, Danny Mac and Matt Slack.

I love a good panto…OH yes I do! Sorry, I had to get it in there and it may as well be right at the start!

I think my love of pantomime started when I was a kid growing up in York. My parents always used to take me and my sister to the Theatre Royal to see Berwick Kayler in panto. He's still doing it now and it really has to be seen to be believed, it has a random, chaotic charm that still makes me feel all warm inside when I think back to it. It's not unusual to see at least four generations enjoying the same show and all having an amazing experience.

When I moved to Birmingham to host the breakfast show on Heart radio in 2002 I experienced the Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime for the first time and I was totally blown away. It was panto alright, but on a totally different scale. It had all the well-known and well-loved set pieces like 'he's behind you', the booing and the jokes that the kids didn't quite get but the adults loved. But it was so much more than that too. The production values were off the scale. It was like a West End show with moments that literally made your jaw drop. I've been lucky enough to go every single year since and – hand on heart – each year it just gets better. I've seen unbelievable 3D effects, a real life waterfall on stage, huge dance routines which would look right at home on a Broadway stage and some huge stars across the years including Julian Clary, Steve McFadden, John Barrowman and Gok Wan. Even uber diva Joan Collins made an appearance at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Ed James
© Simon Hadley

The line-up this year looks equally impressive with soul singer Beverley Knight making her panto debut in Cinderella - her voice really needs to be heard to be believed! For me though, the beating heart and soul of the panto is Matt Slack. He's back for his fourth panto at the Hippodrome and is a total joy. He has all the ingredients of a natural panto star. He's hilarious, quick, cheeky, a fabulous actor but above all else it's his warmth that shines through. There is nothing else that leaves you feeling quite like a panto does and with the world the way it is at the moment, the chance to come to this amazing show makes you feel like you're a kid again. Christmas really wouldn't be Christmas without a trip to see the panto at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Cinderella runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until 29 January.

Visit our Christmas and pantomime page for all your festive needs