Bill Alexander’s utterly beguiling Birmingham Rep production of The Snowman is now playing its thirteenth consecutive season at the Peacock. It’s becoming as much of a seasonal fixture as the pre-RSC Peter Pan used to be at the old Scala Theatre.
And this is in many ways a softer Peter Pan for a newer, and younger, generation: the Boy (our one of three sharing the role was a captivating little fair-haired sprog, Elliot Reeve) leaves home on an adventure with a new friend, the Snowman he’s built in the garden, and they fly through the night to a winter wonderland of penguins, polar bears, Jack Frost, an ice princess and Father Christmas with his reindeers.
The children in the audience are completely familiar with the animated film of 1982 and probably the delightful Raymond Briggs cartoon story of four years earlier. Not only that: Howard Blake’s enchanting score, which is almost entirely derived from the central beautiful melody of “Walking in the Air,” makes of the show a proper musical, something I’d not realised before.
And Robert North’s clever choreography confirms that impression. There’s even a balletic pas de deux for the princess and Jack Frost, as well as for the princess and the cuddly old Snowman. The flying is very well done, with a sky full of snow falling all around and even a friendly whale (large dolphin?) sliding across the water.
The final farewell is as heart-wrenching as that of Jack and his Cow in the pantomime, but of course the tragic meltdown will always be followed by an upbeat curtain call. Ruari Murchison’s well-maintained, parti-coloured design looks a treat, and the arrangement of the show into two halves of forty-five and twenty-five minutes in the accommodating Peacock is just perfect.