The Snowman

The ICC, Birmingham


IT IS amazing what you can achieve with a couple of lengths of wire, an evocative tune and a video projection of a snowstorm.

To the little girl in front of me it was the whole magical world of Christmas unfolding on the International Convention Centre stage before her and her face positively lit up as the Snowman and his boy companion took to the skies for the first time in Birmingham Rep's celebrated production of Raymond Briggs' classic tale.

With their home closed until mid-2013and the completion of the new library development the Rep are a moveable feast these days but the disadvantage of having no home has been turned into the advantage of being able to run two productions at once with the excellent Sleeping Beauty aimed at the Over-7s on at The Crescent and. just up the road along Broad Street, The Snowman has landed at The ICC aimed at a younger starting age of about three or so.

The show has been running for 18 years since it first arrived on stage with music and lyrics by Howard Blake, who wrote the original film score, choreography by Robert North and directed by the then Rep artistic director Bill Alexander and there are children who saw the early production now grown up and taking their own children along.

Like the Birmingham Royal Ballet's Nutcracker it has become part of the city's Christmas tradition, a rite of passage along the road of growing up.

There are a couple of changes in this year's production, particularly at the and, minor and hardly a detraction, but I suspect they are brought about by the ICC theatre, plush as it is, being aimed more at huge corporate gatherings, and full of the electronic wizardry of spin, smoke and mirrors rather than full blown theatrical productions employing the magic of the illusionist with the designer's alchemy of canvas, plywood and battens.

For those who do not know the tale a young boy, played with the right level of childish excitement by Isaac Rouse , makes a snowman, played with a sort of avuncular charm by Chris Sweeney,  and then goes to bed. He awakes during the night, goes out to check his snowman and find that he is not only all right but is alive and let the adventure begin.

The first explore the house and we have a banana, coconut and pineapple all dancing around, a toy solider and a music box ballerina , then outside we have a fox, badger, rabbit, squirrel and reindeer before heading off to the polar regions where we meet penguins, a collection of snowmen of various nationalities and, of course, Father Christmas.

Our Brummie snowman is quite taken with the Ice Princess, danced beautifully by the diminutive ballerina Caroline Crawley, who also dances the music box ballerina. But he has stiff competition from the spikey, icicle clad  Jack Frost, danced by Giuseppe Lazzara, that is until Scottish snow-woman Scotty, played by Emma Fisher, takes out the icy side of the love triangle with a Glasgow kiss . . . Jimmy!

Jimmy Frost is nah sa bold with a broken nosicle . . .

Snowman and the boy fly home and the boy returns to bed only to find in the morning that the snow has melted and his snowman is just a pile of a wet hat and scarf – but then it snows and there is the promise of another Snowman to come.

As a show it is a delight for all ages but particularly for young children who see a tale that doesn't rely on words but is just a collection of scenes that tell a story and it is a story that you suspect will be charming Birmingham for many more years to come. To 31-12-11

Roger Clarke

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