Review: THE SNOWMAN, Peacock Theatre

By: Nov. 24, 2019
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Review: THE SNOWMAN, Peacock Theatre

Review: THE SNOWMAN, Peacock Theatre The Snowman has been performed at the Peacock Theatre for Christmas for over 20 years and continues to charm audiences of all ages. For many families, it seems to mark the beginning of the Christmas season. It's also clearly a lot of children's first experience of theatre, with a significant number of babies and toddlers watching.

The snow is, of course, a very important element of The Snowman, and it's portrayed brilliantly in this Birmingham Repertory Theatre production. Lights swirl in front of the stage throughout, creating a gentle blizzard. You stop noticing it after a while, and then the magic starts again when you remember it's there. There are a few extra flurries of fake snow added in for good measure. Tim Mitchell's lighting design generally works very well, adding to the fairy tale atmosphere.

The way the Snowman is built is very clever, with snowballs of increasing size being rolled across the stage before the chorus create a barrier to hide the transformation. Even knowing what's happening, it's still a great surprise when the title character, played by Martin Fenton, finally appears.

The chorus who surround the Snowman form a group of carol singers, who later return to sing. It's one of several ways the story from the film is augmented to create a stage show of over an hour. It's not a bad idea, but feels a little shoehorned-in. Other examples of extra scenes include a jazz dance with a cat, which is good fun, and a woodland creatures ballet, which lasts a little too long. Still, the young audience love the fluffy creatures.

Ruari Murchison's costume design is appealing, and the snowmen's outfits work very well. They're recognisable to fans of the film and allow free movement. They're loose-fitting to give the impression of solidly built snowmen, but still show off the shapes the dancers are making with their bodies. Another memorable addition is a disco sequence with a light switch and some strobe lighting. It's a little bizarre, but funny nonetheless.

George Nearn Stuart is great as The Boy. He doesn't give the impression of a young actor playing a part, but of a child really experiencing magical things around him - he's so enthusiastic and focussed. The joy on his face throughout, especially when dancing with each of the different snowmen, is contagious, and the source of a lot of the show's magic.

He throws himself into his stomping dancing, first in the snow in his garden, and re-created with his snowman friends later. It just looks like a child playing to music. There are clever echoes of the balletic movements of the adult dancers but with the polish and control taken away, showing carefree elation.

Continuing the comparison to the popular film, the scene with the snowmen from around the world meeting up to party is like slipping into the television; for adults, it feels like a childhood memory being brought to life. Robert's North's diverse choreography is excellent and Stuart certainly enjoys joining in with the dances. Howard Blake's lively composition really gets stuck in your head with the upbeat jig. When Father Christmas appears, he's met with a huge cheer and excited murmurs.

The Ice Princess's dance which follows again goes on a little too long. Elegant though Kirsty Mackay is, as the sequence has no narrative, it loses the audience and you can hear the children getting restless. This happens as The Boy is getting ready for bed as well. For the most part though, it is seriously impressive how the show holds the attention of such young children for so long. While they struggle to be still and quiet throughout, their reactions and excited buzz are a big part of the show's appeal.

The highlight, of course, is "Walking in the Air". It's a beautiful song and a treat to hear it performed by live musicians. The set is good fun, with the images of the boat and the whale passing below the flying Snowman and The Boy. It's truly thrilling when the two characters take off to fly around the stage, with a few choreographed movements and the harnesses swinging them in arcs through the sky. The moon, projected on the backdrop, is stunning. The audience are in awe, with rows of people waving back at the characters.

Other iconic scenes include the boy's toy room and the freezer. The life-size dancing toys are brilliant, and their playful sequence is funny and heart-warming. The way the dancers appear from behind the model toys is brilliant and there is a great touch with a toy train whizzing across the stage. The freezer sequence has been moved and it sits slightly strangely where it's been placed; it jars a little.

The kitchen segment involves some very amusing dancing fruit, with more excellent costumes, fun choreography and great use of dancers in silhouette at the back of the stage. It's a feature that's used a few times. It works well to introduce the baddie, Jack Frost, whose spiky costume makes for an impressive and intimidating sequence. When The Boy goes to sleep after his snowy adventures, the party is re-created as a dream sequence using the same method. It rounds off the story, and the show, well.

The production is clever, and fun, and a feast for the eyes. The cast's energy is excellent and Stuart steals the show. The audience is fully invested in the story and ready to laugh, gasp, boo and cheer at every opportunity. A few bits of the story perhaps don't flow as well as they could, but everything else is so wonderful it really doesn't matter. The adults seem engaged, but it's really about the children. Although they're perhaps a less critical audience, no corners have been cut in giving them an absolutely magical theatre experience.

The Snowman at the Peacock Theatre until 5 January, 2020

BWW Interview: Martin Fenton Talks Playing The Title Role In THE SNOWMAN