TV heartthrobs, top theatre creatives, members of the press and the general public alike gathered together at the Birmingham Hippodrome on Thursday to preview the theatre’s incredibly exciting upcoming 2017/18 season.

‘This really is a venue for everybody’ said Graham Callister, the Hippodrome’s Director of Creative Programmes, as he took to the stage alongside Heart FM’s Ed James and Hippodrome CEO Fiona Allan, for an evening which showcased the diverse and eclectic array of shows and events coming up over the next 18 months.

From the likes of the B-side Hip Hop Music Festival (19-21 May) which Allan labelled as “the coolest thing we do”, through to the annual ‘Summer in Southside’ outdoor festival (17-18 June), which this year is adopting an ‘Escape to the Countryside’ theme (Live animals! Bring your wellies!), there was a very welcome focus on the breadth of free activities, events and celebrations that the Hippodrome coordinate throughout the year.

In fact, for all of the many thousands who flock to the Hippodrome each year to help make it one of the most-visited theatre venues in the Country, many who go perhaps don’t realise the extent to which the profits made from the big tentpole shows and musicals are reinvested back into cultivating fresh, new artistic enterprise and activity, and festivals such as the above. Thursday’s season taster showed that such a notion of giving back and nurturing new talent is, admirably, a top priority for Allan and her team.

But that’s not to say that those with a taste for show tunes and toe tappers are being left out in the cold, though. Far from it; having recently coined their new marketing catchphrase of ‘The West End in the West Midlands’, there’s an extraordinarily confident and impressive line-up of tentpoles and heavy hitters coming up for the theatre. 

Paul Kerryson, director of the upcoming tour of Hairspray, was on hand to chat all things Tracy Turnblad and TV, explaining how the hunt for their new lead will be the basis for an ITV talent search in the Autumn (handily just before it arrives in Brum), whilst Jean-Pierre Van Der Spuy, associate director of Miss Saigon, brought humorous anecdotes from the rehearsal rooms (how DO you replicate a helicopter in rehearsal?) and promised that the production will bring something new and prove itself a ‘must see’ for even the most veteran of Saigon fans.

Holby City and Strictly Come Dancing heartthrob Tom Chambers appeared to talk all things Crazy For You, with the critically acclaimed Watermill Theatre production of the show going on the road and coming to Birmingham later in the year. Chambers also dished out some salient advice on young aspiring actors on performers to ‘just keep going’, recounting his own personal experiences where an overseas Kit Kat advert seemed at one point like it would be the pinnacle of his career, before his big Holby - and later Strictly - breakthroughs.

If that weren’t enough, there was a glimpse even further into the future with the already amazing lineup of shows falling into place for next year. With productions such as Wicked, War Horse and the first ever UK Tour of Tim Minchin and the RSC’s genius Matilda the Musical already announced, and annual fixtures including new programmes from the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Welsh National Opera - the latter of whom provided a beautiful live performance from their upcoming Madame Butterfly, courtesy of Natalya Romaniw - it’s a truly exciting time ahead for friends, fans and visitors of the Hippodrome and Birmingham Theatre as a whole.

The West End in the West Midlands? Well yes, demonstrably, but so much more than that, too.

For a complete look at all upcoming shows, events and productions at the Birmingham Hippodrome, and to book your tickets for shows already on sale, including MISS SAIGON, HAIRSPRAY and CRAZY FOR YOU, head on over to the Official Website or telephone the Box Office direct on 0844 338 5000.