Howard Blake, Bill Alexander and Robert North
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
08 November 2017 to 12 November 2017
It’s hard to imagine a more enchanting festive family show than The Snowman. With music from Howard Blake, the original composer for the celebrated animated film, beautiful set and lighting design, and choreography from Robert North, Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s production has been onstage in London since 1998 and is the longest running Christmas show in the UK.
The world originally created in Raymond Briggs' drawings is brought to life through Tim Mitchell’s wintry lighting design, which sees falling snowflakes projected across the stage. Giant white pine trees lean in over the characters in the forest scene, and snow machines produce a mini blizzard over the stalls at the finale.
Being faithful to the original film does however mean that there are a lot of set changes, as the action jumps from house to garden and beyond. Each transition isn’t always quick or covered well though, which inevitably breaks up the magic.
The most famous sequence is a real wow moment though, as the Snowman and the Boy take flight on wires to ‘Walking in the Air,’ eliciting a burst of applause from the audience.
There’s plenty of family-friendly comedy to complement the Christmas sparkle, from the politically incorrect dancing snowmen of the forest scene, to the Snowman’s amusing exploits in the family house. There’s also a bizarre sequence where a dancing coconut, banana and pineapple emerge from the fridge and do the limbo under a mop.
Technically, this is a dance production, and there is a wide variety of styles on display – from the Fred Astaire Snowman gliding across the stage in a top hat, to the comically nimble Santa who achieves great height in his jumps. The ballerina Ice Princess – delicately danced by Tomoyo Tanimoto Jequier – is in love with the Snowman, and their thwarted love gives life to a poignant duet and a confrontational pas de trois with evil rival, Jack Frost.
The famously sad ending, which sees the Snowman melt and the Boy forced to face the loss of his friend, doesn’t have the same impact in this retelling. Snow begins to fall again, bringing hope of renewal, and the whole cohort of characters from the enchanted forest return for a lively encore.
On the night, the Opera House was full of families. It’s wonderful to see shows like The Snowman giving young children their first experience of live theatre, capturing their imaginations and hopefully sparking an interest in the arts. Long may it continue.
Reviewer: Georgina Wells