NEWS: Birmingham SHALL go to the ball as stars of stage and screen launch the fairy godmother of all pantomimes!

There was magic in the air at Aston Villa Football Club this week as the fairy godmother of all pantomime casts arrived in the city for the official launch of Birmingham Hippodrome’s 2017-18 pantomime; 'Cinderella', the most magical panto of them all!

Making her pantomime debut this year, in the role of The Fairy Godmother, Wolverhampton-born soul diva and West-End star, Beverley Knight enjoyed a homecoming to remember with a fairytale-themed photo shoot complete with horse-drawn carriage, magical glass slipper and enchanted snow-storm.

Joining Beverley for this year’s enchanted photo call were pop princess and television star Suzanne Shaw, best known for her time with the hit group Hear'Say and for playing Eve Jenson in Emmerdale. Funny-man, Matt Slack, returns for his 5th consecutive pantomime in Birmingham, in the role of Buttons and the most fabulous Ugly Sisters in show-business, Ceri Dupree and Phil Randall star as Voluptua and Verruca.

Completing the line up are the Grumbleweeds and Prince Charming, who will be played by Hollyoaks hunk, Danny Mac, who's currently starring at Joe in the UK tour of 'Sunset Boulevard'. Commenting on her starring role in panto this year, Beverley said:

Wolverhampton Girl, Beverley Knight, takes on the role of the Fairy Godmother

"I’m absolutely thrilled to be coming home to the Midlands for my first ever panto this Christmas. I’ve never felt so sparkly and I’m already very attached to my magic wand! Birmingham Hippodrome has such an incredible reputation and I can’t wait to celebrate Christmas here in ‘Gods own country’ with friends, family and my wonderful co-stars.

"Speaking as a local girl, Midlands audiences really are some of the best in the world – they know how to enjoy themselves and they’re always game for a laugh. We’re going to have an absolute ball!’

Speaking on this year’s casting, Producer and Director Michael Harrison said: “This year’s fantastic line-up will ensure another smash-hit pantomime for the Hippodrome in 2017/18. With so many stars across the worlds of music, theatre, dance and comedy I’m delighted we’ve assembled such a stellar cast for Birmingham’s ultimate pantomime.

Comedian, Matt Slack, returns for his FIFTH Birmingham panto!

"Once again there’ll be plenty of laughs, surprises and audience participation to look forward to, so audiences should book their tickets to the ball today.”

Fiona Allan, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Birmingham Hippodrome added: "We are hugely excited to play host to Beverley Knight in her pantomime debut this festive season. Pantomime is incredibly important to us at Birmingham Hippodrome and we’re extremely proud of our longstanding relationship with Qdos, who continue to entertain and delight audiences from across the region year on year with their unique mixture of storytelling, lavish special effects and hilarious comedy.

"This year’s star-studded line-up promises something for everyone and with the clock already ticking, it’s never too early to start planning in some Christmas fun. See you at the ball!’

Suzanne Shaw takes the title role of Cinderella at the Hippodrome this Christmas

Produced by Olivier-nominated pantomime producer Qdos Entertainment, 'Cinderella' will feature all of the ingredients of the perfect Hippodrome pantomime: a fabulous cast and orchestra, laugh-out-loud comedy, stunning scenery and special effects, beautiful costumes and plenty of boos and hisses for all the family to enjoy.

It runs at Birmingham Hippodrome from Monday 19th December until Sunday 28th January. Tickets are priced from £15.50 and can be booked on 0844 338 5000 or from birminghamhippodrome.com.