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Queen of the Black Country Doreen Tipton joins all-star cast to launch Birmingham Hippodrome's panto

The stars of this year's Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime donned their costumes on Monday to officially launch Dick Whittington.

Matt Slack, Doreen Tipton, Dr Ranj, Suzanne Shaw and Andrew Ryan are the stars of this year's pantomime at the Birmingham Hippodrome.
Matt Slack, Doreen Tipton, Dr Ranj, Suzanne Shaw and Andrew Ryan are the stars of this year's pantomime at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

TV 's Dr Ranj, singer Suzanne Shaw, and Queen of the Black Country Doreen Tipton joined Hippodrome favourites Matt Slack and Andrew Ryan for the launch of the UK's biggest regional panto.

Doreen Tipton, who plays the role of the Cat, has spent most of the year sleeping to fully get into character.

"Doing pantomime is such fun, ay it?" She said. "I haven't discussed Lazy Cow Syndrome with Dr Ranj yet, but I look forward to doing so."

The actress, otherwise known as Gill Jordan, is returning to the Hippodrome pantomime for a third time, and is enjoying being so close to her beloved Black Country.

"It's like coming home, being in the Midlands, amongst the Midlands audiences. It's just great."

Matt Slack as Dick Whittington and Doreen Tipton as the Cat

Joining her in the all-star line-up is Dr Ranj, in his third pantomime appearance, playing the Spirit of the Bells.

Dr Ranj said: "Panto is a magical escape. I love Christmas, I love the festive period. It's the best way to celebrate it.

"It's just a really joyous time of year, and I get to escape London, I get to escape all my other work, and I get to come into this magical world of theatre and just have the best time.

"My first panto experience wasn't as a kid. Interestingly, I was in my early thirties. It was down in Horsham, Surrey, and my friends were in it.

"I remember watching it and thinking 'one day I'd love to do this' because it was just so much fun - and here I am."

Matt Slack as Dick Whittington and Dr Ranj as the Spirit of the Bells

This hero of this year's show is Matt Slack as Dick Whittington, who returns to the Hippodrome for a record-breaking ninth consecutive year.

Birmingham's fan favourite, who also co-wrote the script, said: "Panto is as good as it gets.

"This year I'm playing Dick Whittington, so you can imagine the Dick jokes - there's gonna be a few.

"It's a very good script with a few little twists and turns. I think this one's going to be really fantastic.

"This one's going to be a little bit special, I think. It's very character-based and we've got familiar people back and then newcomers joining us.

"I'm very proud with what we've done with the script so far.

"It's part of my life - it's been part of my career for over 20 years now and I'm very proud of what I'm achieved from someone who's not had that lucky break - I can walk down the street and people won't recognise me.

"I'm very proud of the career I've had. For me, it's the fact that I'm going back to what I originally started out doing and that was comedy.

"I get to do it once a year, be up there doing it and making people happy. Some of the comments I get and the warmth and love from the audience - it makes a difference. It really does.

"And the kids come back after and say 'I saw you five or six years ago' and they grow up with you. It does make a difference in people's lives and you become a part of their childhood.

"I'm very proud of that. I'm a very lucky man."

Suzanne Shaw

Dick Whittington marks the first Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime for artistic director and chief executive officer of the theatre, Jon Gilchrist, who took over the helm earlier this year.

Jon said: "I don't think I could have moved at a better time. To have the Commonwealth Games and Festival 2022 happen has been an extraordinary thing for the city.

"It's one of those things where you realise that the cultural landscape of this city is as rich as anywhere in Europe, but the Commonwealth Games was needed to amplify that and show what the city can do.

"The sense of pride in arts in Birmingham feels really high at the moment, and I feel it's part of the Hippodrome's job to keep riding that wave."

He went on to say: "I saw my first panto when I was six or seven and I've been hooked ever since.

"I'm not just saying this because now I work at the Hippodrome, but I'm an entirely unapologetic panto superfan.

"I think it's probably one of the best art forms out there. Not just because it's so fun, but also because we've got an audience of over 100,000 people who are coming and they're being entertained by the amazing cast.

"But also they're collectively coming together to see a company who reflects the communities we see in Birmingham - and give messages of joy and hope at a time when we need it.

"It's perfect, and I can't think of anything I want to work on more."

Andrew Ryan

You can see Matt Slack, Dr Ranj, Doreen Tipton, Suzanne Shaw, and Andrew Ryan in this year's Hippodrome pantomime, alongside Wet Wet Wet frontman Marti Pellow.

Dick Whittington runs from Saturday, December 17 to Sunday, January 29.

To book tickets, go to, call 0844 338 5000, or visit the theatre's box office on Hurst Street.

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