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Sadler’s Wells presents the Birmingham Repertory Theatre production of

 

The Snowman

The stage show based on Raymond Briggs’ children’s story

Photo by Alistair Muir

 

Directed by Bill Alexander

 

Choreography by Robert North

 

Music and Lyrics by Howard Blake

 

Scenario by Howard Blake, Bill Alexander and Robert North

 

Peacock Theatre

 

2 December 2009 - 10 January 2010

 

 

 

 

ary Couzens

A review by Chad Armitstead for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

The Snowman stage show is a giant hearth, enticing adults in from the cold outside to bask in the glow of nostalgia and children’s giggles. 

Based on Raymond Briggs’ beloved children’s book of the same title, director Bill Alexander’s show follows the story of a boy (played alternately by James Wilson, Lewis Coppen and Elliot Reeve) who wakes up one morning to find the world covered in snow.  Brimming with excitement, he builds a snowman.  That night, at the stroke of midnight, he wakes and checks on his creation.  To his amazement, the Snowman (played alternately Rémy Martin and Brad Madison) has come to life.  The pair begin a journey of wondrous discovery that leads them to the North Pole and back again.

Howard Blake, Bill Alexander and Robert North stick faithfully to the animated version of the story, telling the tale entirely through music and dance (sorry, no Raymond Briggs or David Bowie intro). 

Likewise, Alexander has kept Howard Blake’s haunting original score from the Oscar nominated, Bafta winning (Best Children’s Show - 1982) animated version.  Atmospheric and enveloping, it settles like a warm, if at times faintly melancholic, blanket over Alexander’s show.  And, of course, there is the climactic crowning jewel of Blake’s Snowman achievement, “Walking in the Air.”  It’s the only song with words in the show and it not only topped the charts in its day (originally sung by a St. Paul’s Cathedral choir boy), but creates a poignant emotional climax in Alexander’s show, sung by Susan Monnox, as the boy and the Snowman fly to the North Pole.

If you weren’t reared on Briggs’ tale or the animation, some of the episodic story’s magic may be lost on you.  But a cursory YouTubing instantly reveals the charm that has made the story a revered classic.  Both the stage show and the cartoon thrive not on density of action, but on seeing the adventure and the world through the new and wondering eyes of a child. 

Like panto, most of the joy of seeing Alexander’s show is in hearing the amazed exclamations of children.  The theatre is filled with astonished, inquisitive expressions—the kind of expression that inevitably gives way to the unapologetically loud questioning of parents as to how the boy can fly, why the Snowman’s fingers have turned to icicles and if he’s going to beat the ‘bad man’ Jack Frost (Giuseppe Lazzara).

Simple by design, the choreography is more playing than precision.  The dances are well executed and exuberant, concerned with engaging children, not impressing adults.

However, Emanuela Atzeni takes the audience by surprise with moments of true balletic beauty as the Music Box Ballerina and the Ice Princess.  She brings a delicate presence and gentle grace to an evening otherwise characterised by the innocent, lumbering playfulness of the Snowman.

The design is breathtaking, from the gently falling snow that greets the audience as they enter the theatre to the credible magic of the flying scenes.  Ruari Murchison (design) and Tim Mitchell (lighting design) render the boy’s snow-laden, pine-bough world in crisp, vivid detail that has you listening for snow crunching under your feet.

The costumes are full of the character and charm that will hold a child’s attention like even a television never could—yes, even a television.  This production’s designers have put the original Snowman on a bit of a diet, shrunk his head and made him a bit clownish, which might leave some wanting a bit of the disarming jolliness of the pudgier cartoon.  Keeping the portly charm of the illustrations might be a bit much to ask, however, of designers who have a real, dancing actor to dress.  In any case, the rapt children didn’t seem to mind.

For parents, the music and the story will enchant with the nostalgia of the simpler pursuits of childhood.  The costumes, wordless storytelling and jubilant dancing will put a light in little eyes.  Whoever you are, The Snowman is bound to be the spark that ignites the wonder of the season for you and your family.

 

 

 

£12-£30, £90 for family of 4

Box office:  0844 412 4300

www.sadlerswells.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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