Writer: Raymond Briggs
Music and Lyrics: Howard Blake
Director: Bill Alexander
Reviewer: Clare White
Since its premiere at Birmingham REP in 1993, the live stage show of The Snowman has been seen by over one million people worldwide and entertained audiences at the Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre in London every Christmas for the last 18 years. Based on Raymond Briggs’ much-loved children’s book and its BAFTA award-winning adaptation, which debuted on Channel 4 on 26 December 1982, the stage version has become a perennial festive favourite in its own right.
The Snowman returns to its Birmingham birthplace on a frosty January evening and delights the audience with a wonderfully warm and witty family show When a young boy’s snowman magically comes to life on Christmas Eve, the pair embark on a night time adventure to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas and his snowman friends.
The show closely follows the animated version in the first half, and all our favourite bits are in there – the false teeth, the motorbike and the melting traumas and subsequent convalescing in the freezer. There are a few fun extras thrown in, like waltzing woodland animals and, rather strangely, dancing fruit. It isn’t clear what a limbo competition between a giant pineapple, a banana and a coconut has to do with the story, but it is amusing nonetheless.
The second act was rewritten in 2002 and additional characters were introduced, like the abominable Jack Frost and an elegant Ice Princess, which has helped to pad out the story and add to the spectacle.
As with the film, there is no dialogue, and the story is told through mime, music and dance. And what wonderful mime, music and dance it is – Robert North’s choreography to Howard Blake’s timeless score is touchingly emotive and completely enchanting. An undoubted highlight is the Walking in the Air piece when Blake’s soaring composition elevates the Snowman and the Boy into the sky. It is a real “lump in the throat” moment.
The role of the Boy is shared by three young actors, and it was the immensely talented Oscar Couchman who took centre stage for opening night. He is joined by James Leece as the Snowman, who gives an energetic and graceful performance. His dance number with the Ice Princess is particularly beautiful.
These days it can prove impossible to get a child to pay attention to anything that doesn’t have a screen for more than 10 minutes, but such is this timeless tale that the whole audience, young and old, sit totally captivated for nearly two hours. Even an unfortunate technical hitch in the second act couldn’t spoil what was a magical show. The Snowman is a charming classic for all the family.
Runs until 24 January 2016 | Image: Contributed
- Spirit Of Frosty (armchairzen.com)