The Snowman is a teenager! Sixteen consecutive years at the Peacock Theatre haven't dampened the enthusiasm of children and their patient parents for this seasonal confection produced by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Based on the children's book by Raymond Briggs, the story tells of a young boy who, after the winter's first snow, builds a snowman that comes alive in the middle of the night. The two of them lark about, flying off to a magical world of snowmen, Jack Frost, and an Ice Princess who is warmer than most of her human analogs.
The best thing about this show is that children love it – love it, love it, love it. After the first twenty minutes I realized I was over my head when it came to reviewing The Snowman. So during the interval I talked with half a dozen kids in the audience, asking them if they liked the show, and what they liked best. Their enthusiasm was, without exception, positive. They were simply thrilled.
One boy, Sasha, a smartly dressed seven-going-on-eight-year-old, told me he had been to see the show five times. When I asked him what his favourite part was, he was speechless: so many moments were possible candidates. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, just everything." His brother, a four-year-old with a bowl haircut, who was stuffing himself with ice cream and had only seen the show twice, was less articulate. It was clear though, that he too was greatly impressed by the snowy glitter of The Snowman's world. I asked an older boy in a blue blazer what he thought. A rather tall nine-year-old, he was equally pleased and abashed by the shimmering world of dancing snowmen. His favourite part was when the Boy and the Snowman loft into the air above the stage, flying here and there – well, back and forth, from stage wing to stage wing. The flying sequence was, hands-down, the winner for everyone's best bit.
Girls too were delighted by the show, and one little girl, who had trouble answering because English wasn't her first language, found the dancing banana incomparable for the award of Best Moment in the Show.
Banana? you ask. Yes, in the dead of night when the Boy and the Snowman start their adventures, the first thing they do is go into the Boy's house and chow down, stockpiling carbohydrates for the long flight to Snowmanland. It appears that even a snowman has to eat. The Boy's Mum, being experienced with the insatiable appetite of growing children, had copiously stocked the fridge with a coconut, a pineapple, and a banana (odd – Mum must have gotten her culinary degree in Finland). In a flurry of tropical madness, the three fruits samba around the stage. I think that's the point at which the dancers disappeared for me and the costumes started morphing into The Real Thing. Clearly I had missed dinner.
Archie Durrant played the Boy on press night, and he was terrific, precociously cavorting about with lots of boyish panache. Without a doubt, he'll be King of Breakdancers by the time he's twelve. He was well matched with Snowman Martin Fenton, who was wonderfully expressive in a fluffy white full-body pajama set, complete with floppy hat and coal eyes.
My favorite character was, of course, the evil Jack Frost, played by Paul Farrell, who also played the afore-mentioned hairy brown coconut. He was wonderfully fiendish, and his role proved something we've known all along: that warm is good and cold is bad.
Happy holidays, all!