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Howard Blake, The Snowman – the Show (1982/1993):  Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Jeremy Young (MD), Peacock Theatre, London – 21.12.2009 (BBr)


I sometimes wonder if it’s such a good idea to have press night at the beginning of a long run (this production runs from 2 December to 11 January). I attended the first night of The Snowman and enjoyed every minute of it; the band was well rehearsed, the movement – this isn’t a ballet per se, but it’s got a lot of different kinds of dancing in it – was excellent and everything gelled perfectly. However, my visit this morning – yes, you didn’t misread that, I attended the 11 am Monday morning performance – was of a much riper and vital show. The band was more flexible in its performance, allowing the music to speak in a more relaxed way, the performers allowing some degree of freedom into their interpretation, the dancers, for want of a better word, were also more comfortable in their roles, allowing for more interaction with the audience, especially coming downstage and taking bows to acknowledge the applause for various individual items. Of course, like all performers the cast and band responded to the audience which, this morning, was packed with children of all ages, who loved every minute, booing the baddie, Jack Frost, as he tries to steal the Ice Princess from The Snowman during the Christmas festivities at the North Pole, and cheering the arrival of Santa Claus, indeed, cheering most of the things he got up to.

This is such an inventive show for it doesn’t just mirror the action of the book and the famous cartoon film, it has extra episodes added in order to expand the whole into a full entertainment. The highlights for me were the Reindeer dance and the tango for several Snowmen with penguins, Santa and the Ice Princess, but my favourite moment has to be at the end of Act 1 where the Snowman and James, the boy, take flight and, to the accompaniment of Walking in the Air (surely such a great tune only comes to a composer once in a lifetime, and what a tune it is!), fly round the stage en route to the North Pole. It’s a truly magical moment, and my daughter agreed that it was, for her, a real highlight. A child sitting behind me chose to disagree and told his Dad that he had seen that the Snowman and James were not really flying but were actually on wires. He was only about 4 years old, so what does he know? I know for a fact that they were really flying, otherwise how else would they have managed to get to the North Pole so quickly to see Santa?

The Snowman
simply delights. It is full of the most wonderful visual things and it’s also full of the most marvelous music and here’s an important point. A couple of night’s ago I attended the Jonathan Dove entertainment for children The Enchanted Pig at the Royal Opera House. As with today, that night the theatre was full of children lapping up the entertainment and this is a good thing for the kids never thought anything was odd that all the characters sang their lines and seldom spoke. The music held them entranced. Likewise The Snowman. Perhaps we need not worry about where the audiences are going to come from, for the future of classical music would seem assured to judge by these two events alone. This is cause for celebration.

The Snowman
is the brightest show in town for the Christmas period and many days have three shows, at 11 am 2.30 and 7 pm. Don’t miss it for it is a true delight.

Bob Briggs

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