The Snowman

Based on the book by Raymond Briggs and the film directed by Dianne Jackson, music and lyrics by Howard Blake
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Lyceum Theatre Sheffield

The Snowman Credit: Alastair Muir
The Snowman Credit: Herbie Knott

The Snowman is a theatrical realisation of Raymond Briggs’s delightful illustrated children’s picture book (1978) which was later turned into a successful BAFTA-winning animated film.

The stage version by Birmingham Repertory Theatre was premièred in 1993 and has since been entertaining audiences during the festive season at home and worldwide.

This is a charming and innocent Christmas entertainment. Beatrix Potter meets The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra with more than a hint of The Nutcracker.

A boy builds a snowman on Christmas Eve which comes to life in his dreams and takes him on an adventure which includes ‘walking in the air’ and encounters with animated toys, woodland creatures, dancing snowmen and finally Father Christmas in his winter wonderland.

The performance is essentially a ballet to music by Howard Blake. A large cast of accomplished dancers people the stage dressed in colourful, full-body costumes and charm the audience with their representation of a wooden soldier, a fox, a squirrel, a reindeer, an ice princess, Jack Frost (a villain) and a company of dancing Snowmen.

The show falls into two halves, each with its own special magic. The first half with its toys and forest animals will hold the attention of younger children, while the second offers more seriously choreographed individual and ensemble dance sequences, including an ‘en point’ performance by the Ice Princess and a vigorous solo by the wicked Jack Frost.

There is much to enchant in this production. Aerial work seems effortless, and special effects, including clever shadow work, help to create a sense of mystery. The whole cast plays with high energy, despite the all enclosing costumes, and two penguins manage to dance as a pair without locking their long beaks.

Particular credit must go to the main Snowman and the Boy (James Leece and Joe Sheridan on press night). Leece manages to transmit a warm, inquisitive, slightly bumbling, child-friendly persona, despite the restrictions of the costume, and Joe Sheridan has remarkable assurance as well as impressive technical skills for a performer of his age. His acting, mime and dance are impeccable and a delight to watch.

The performance ends with a real Christmas treat, a coup de theatre, which excited young and old alike.

Reviewer: Velda Harris