Christmas Review



Home Archive Reviewers

M.Couzens Reviews






Sadler's Wells presents the Birmingham Repertory production of


The Snowman


The Live Stage Show




Based on the story by Raymond Briggs

Music, lyrics and scenario by Howard Blake

Musical Director/Piano – Jeremy Young

Director and Choreographer – Robert North

Director- Bill Alexander

Designer - Ruari Murchison

Lighting Designer – Tim Mitchell

Sound Designer – Richard Brooker

Peacock Theatre

1 December 2010 – 9 January 2011





A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


This annual Christmas favourite seems as though it could run forever. For many who have felt the bittersweet impact of the animated version of Raymond Brigg’s classic tale of a boy who befriends his snowman when it comes to life, first aired in ’82, and its’ original source, Raymond Brigg’s wordless storybook, The Snowman holds a special place in our hearts. As a result, as parents and grandparents, it’s one of the shows we like to take our familial children and toddlers to, and boy, do they appreciate it!

Few things are more Christmassy than snow, and when you enter the Peacock for The Snowman, you are met by heavy, animated flakes falling on and around the stage, thick with wintery atmosphere. As the lights go down, a pianist begins to play the show’s acclaimed song, ‘Walking in the Air,’ live, and a thrill goes through the audience. But it is when young James, asleep in his bed as the snow continues to fall, awakens, and sensing the silence, peers out of the window, a look of childish delight on his face that the real excitement begins in this wordless (apart from Santa’s hearty ‘ho, ho, ho) show, designed to appeal to children young and old the world over.

Adults, watching a young boy building a snowman, cleverly managed here with wrapped up James rolling oversized snowballs in one direction, offstage, only to roll in much larger ones from the other side,  may feel a tinge of something like sadness, for there is nothing like the joy of a child building a snowman! And as the old song ‘Toyland’ says, ‘we can ne’er go home again.’ These are the kind of moments which ring most true for adults watching this performance. For those in the company of children, there are, of course, additional benefits, such as watching them reacting with delight to the many child friendly characters in The Snowman - dancers dressed like animals such as penguins, reindeer, a fox and a rabbit, not to mention the antics of the snowman and his rotund, pals. But every Christmas show needs a good villain and this one has Jack Frost, a spiky, sneering creature dressed in glitteringly icy blue, who the children heartily boo, even when he appears for his curtain calls.

Though something of a child’s introduction to dance, The Snowman is a also a great intro to live music and theatre as well, as it is all of these things, rolled into one big happy ball of sparkling, winter-loving snow! It’s been a good few years since I’ve seen the show, and since then, there have been some changes to it, in that the graphics behind the action are more well - defined and there seems to be more emphasis on the dance aspects of the show than there was before, possibly to keep the adults happier while educating their children. That said, I already liked the simplicity of the show as it was, and wouldn’t want to see it updated too much for fear of lessening its homespun charm.

As you might expect, the show’s seminal moments are the flying scenes, when James and the snowman journey to the North Pole, over the Sussex coast and Atlantic Ocean.  However, on the night we were there though breath-taking as always, the first of these scenes was diminished somewhat by an over-abundance of swirling mist which obscured all but the top of the illuminated spout of a whale moving across the horizon which was a shame, as seeing the ocean liner and other things moving across the sea below enhances the sense of perspective and thus, further enables the magical realism of their flight.

Performance wise, we have James (Lewis Coppen on Dec. 4th), his parents, carolers, the very graceful (given his size) snowman (Remy Martin or Brad Madison – impossible to tell), an  Ice Princess (Emanuela Atzeni, who also plays Music Box Ballerina), Jack Frost (Giusepe Lazzara, also ‘coconut’), dancing snowmen (at the North Pole) various animals, such as Santa’s mincing reindeer (one of whom, Alessandra Mazzetti, also plays James’ Mum) whom, I imagine, also double as carolers and snowmen, and last, but not least, Father Christmas himself (Matthew Graham, who also plays James’ Dad), the very sight of whom inspires childish squeals of delight right up to the rafters! If that doesn’t soften your heart, you must be made of granite! For me, it’s one of the highlights of the performance, and the only thing that could enhance that would be to attend a matinee where the sound of the toddlers and children believing in Santa Claus is magnified a hundred fold! (Ask me how I know) As you might expect with a family Christmas show, the performers give their all in aide of entertaining the children, so much so that the very idea of the multitude of shows, back to back, that they will be playing in over the holidays while we enjoy our turkey/Quorn sandwiches and grog gives one pause. Well done, all round!

Ruari Murchison's set simulates a dreamy winter wonderland complete with snow laden trees flanking the stage, creating a wintery forest feel and James' two-tiered rollaway family home featuring cosy touches such as a traditional electric fire posing as a coal one, with a scuttle nearby supplying the eyes and buttons of James' snowman. There is also an oversized fridge which, when open, doubles as a stage door of sorts for some dancers dressed as oversized fruit for a unexpectedly tropical twist.

The music, by Howard Blake, which we may momentarily lose sight of due to snow-blindness, is just as hand and glove with the action here as it was in the beloved animated version of Briggs’ story, and it was Blake’s idea to transform The Snowman into a stage show. I’m sure that many happy children and snowman loving adults thank him for that each and every year. Hearing the score played live is one of the show’s definitive highlights, particularly for adults, but that said, the CD of The Snowman was second only to music from Harry Potter films in a recent children’s popularity poll. Jeremy Young does the honours on piano on ‘Walking in the Air’ a song which continues to soar, and other snowman music, along with David Quigley, (Assistant Musical Director), on keyboard, Jane Dixon-Wayne on flute and piccolo, Louise Hunt on keyboard and Sam Walton on percussion. They are the show’s unsung heroes.

The Snowman stage show is said to be ‘suitable for aged two and upwards’, and the evening we were in attendance, there were excited toddlers and pre-school children peppered throughout the house. Judging by all the happy gurgles of recognition when James’ frosty friend first appeared, The Snowman is a Christmas tradition that is being handed down, as one might share a favourite movie, story or tree ornament, through generations. That’s both a great thing and, scary too, as to see that happening is a timely reminder that, at every opportunity, we should be making snowmen of our own…



Peacock Theatre
Portugal Street, Off Kingsway London WC2A 2HT
Box Office: 0844 412 4322
Performance times
11am performances:
4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30 & 31 Dec
2, 3, 7, 8 & 9 Jan

2.30pm performances:
4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 & 31 Dec
2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 Jan

7pm performances
1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 18, 19 & 23 Dec
8 Jan
Running time
1 hr 50 mins (including one 20 min interval)
£12 - £32

Group Discounts
Groups 8+ 20% off stalls seats for most performances.
Not available online or in conjunction with any other offer.
Family Ticket
£95 (4 tickets inc at least 1 child)
Not available in conjunction with any other offer. All seats must be within the same price band and all together.





Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved




M.Couzens Reviews

Home Archive Reviewers