Sunday Night At The Birmingham Hippodrome - Dedicated to the memory of Ian Sandy BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME THE star-studded bill made it feel like the Royal Variety Show.
But this was a night when the cream of Britain's light entertainment talent rose to the top - to honour one of their own.
For 23 years, Birmingham-born Ian Sandy pulled every behind-the- scenes string to ensure the Hippodrome's annual panto remained the biggest and best in the country.
And the stars did him proud on an unforgettable Sunday night in memory of the 6ft 1in, 20-stone gentle giant, who died aged just 48 two days before last Christmas.
Once, due to computer failure, Ian himself stepped out from the shadows to entertain the audience for half-an-hour.
This time, there would have been no need for him to have a 'quiet word' to keep anyone on their toes.
From the lighting to the sound to the music of The Hippodrome Orchestra, you would have thought this Qdos Entertainment show had been running for weeks. It was just how Ian would have liked it - and many of the stars taking part felt as if the big man himself was watching over them.
Lynda Bellingham introduced the show, saying: "In 44 years of acting I had never won an award - until Ian gave me one of his own, for 'best newcomer in panto'."
Don Maclean - who once won a Sandy Award for 'most Catholics in a dressing room' - brought the house down with fellow Brummie Malcolm Stent as they recreated his famous Solihull Arts Complex panto postbox routine.
With Maclean narrating, Stent would announce the name of a place he was posting letters to, viz: "She had ( Wy l d e Green) eyes"... but... "I intended to follow a (Monkspath)..."
Solihull songbird and panto principle Kathryn Rooney sang Funny Girl's Don't Rain on My Parade and ventriloquist Paul Zerdin gave tantalising hints of why he's one of the star attractions in next winter's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs panto.
Basil Brush gave an interpretation of the news in Noel Coward style, before members of Ian's own BSS Showbiz performing arts school sang a medley from the musical '13', masterminded by his business partner Dan Chen, who is continuing the group.
Joe Pasquale closed the first half with a mixture of magic, comedy and art and his own take on new technology: "My sister had a baby last week and even that came out cordless."
The second half opened with The Birmingham Stage School joining Rooney and The Hippodrome Dancers.
Following a solo spot for Stent, Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph introduced a troupe of panto dames including Martin Ramsdin, David Hill, Andrew Ryan, Nigel Ellacott, Don Maclean and Jeffrey Holland.
Ceri Dupree stayed behind to perform a routine that would have done Danny La Rue proud, as well as Ian.
Brian Conley, who has performed in six pantomimes at the Hippodrome - more than any other star in its history - ran through some highlights of his cabaret routine, including comedy, stunts and a medley of popular hits.
He also put on some white gloves to recreate his role as Al Jolson, from the Olivier-award-winning show, Jolson.
"I wasn't topping the bill," Conley told me. "I was closing the show."
Stent added afterwards: "It was lovely to see a full house. Brummies are very good at supporting their own."
And, as all the stars would tell you, there was none finer than Ian Sandy.
With all artistes and others performing for free, the Pounds 25- a-head show was set to raise thousands of pounds for his favourite charities - Macmillan Cancer Support, RSPCA, Help Harry Help Others, Midlands Air Ambulance and Cancer Research UK.
Verdict: GRAHAM YO
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
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