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Tag: the snowman on stage

Raymond Briggs THE SNOWMAN Stage Show Review

Raymond Briggs THE SNOWMAN Stage Show Review

Fewer things are as magical as having children at Christmas time. It’s a time of awe and wonder, giving and sharing, and reliving family traditions. One such tradition for my family, as I’m sure it is for many others, is curling up on the sofa in our pyjamas on Christmas eve, and waiting The Snowman animation together. It’s what I did as a child, what I do now with my children, and hope it’s what they do with their children in the future, with fon memories of their own.

The Snowman, written by Raymond Briggs in 1978, was first broadcast as an animation in 1982, and has been a huge success ever since. And so, it seems, has the stage version of the show. Admittedly, I wasn’t aware of the production, perhaps with living in the north, and the show only being staged in London. However the production has been at Sadlers Wells for just over 20 years now, and continues to – ahem – *snowball* in popularity.

As you walk into Sadlers Wells Peacock Theatre, the magic is already visible. The stage setting is chunky and caricature like in style, as if the trees have been lifted right off the pages of the book. The lights are dimly lit, with blue hues to show off the projected ‘snowflakes’ that are whirling round the stage, giving the whole stage a snow globe effect. The programmes are hugely interactive for little people,with games, puzzle and colouring in sections, as well one great background information for the adults.

The music begins and the magic truly starts. The familiar melodies and tunes by Howard Blake transport you to another world, and we peer into the life of the boy and his mother and father on Christmas eve. Much like the animation, there are no words or narrative. The whole story is told by the music wonderfully expressive dancing. The dancing is fairly contemporary in style, to help with the individual concepts, like how the boy uses big, exagerated leg movements as he trudges though the snow, or the choir lulling side to side as they sing carols.

The Snowman has been on stage since the boy first created it, and suddenly jumps to life, much to the amazement of the audience! For those that are old enough to remember, his movements are remenicent of Mr Soft from the Trebor Softmint advert! This much amuses the children in the audience, with their shreiks and laughter echoing around the auditorium. They are totally captivated by him!

All the scenes are exactly as they are in the animation, with the addition of some creative characters, limbo dancing fruit, a music box ballerina en pointe, a toy soldier, and forest animals. Not forgetting Jack frost, who evokes a pantomime feel to the whole thing – the children loving to boo and hiss at his naughty antics! These characters have been written into the story seamlessly, blending so well with the original characters, that you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d always been a part of the story.

The production has a generous dousing of magic throughout, but by far the most captivating is the flying scene. As soon as the first few bars of “walking in the air” are played, the auditorium goes quiet, as you watch the Snowman and the boy take to the air, in what has to be the most nostalgic piece of theatre I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.

The Snowman and women dance considerably well given their rounded nature, with plenty of jumps and lifts. Althought how they don’t melt whilst undertaking these tasks under the stage lighting is amazing! I interviewed the ‘Fred Astaire’ snowman in a Q&A article which you can read here http://danceniche.com/2018/11/30/qa-with-cameron-ball-cast-member-of-the-snowman-stage-production/

Another welcome character is the big man himself, Father Christmas. The children’s faces all lighting up whenever he is on stage. I wonder how he finds the time in his busy work schedule to perform everyday, and put his spritliness down to all the sherry he must be drinking! Watching him piroette and leap about the stage makes it quite clear how he is able to indulge in all the mince pies he will soon be eating!

The final sprinkling of magic is after the finale and when the cast have all disappeared. I do not want to spoil the surprise for you, so i’ll say this…..it is well worth staying in the auditorium after the finale, as the production brings a little of the outside, inside, with ‘dusting’ of joy and a ‘flurry’ of excitement for all.

The Snowman is currently being shown at Sadlers Wells Peacock Theatre until 6th January. More information on dates and times can be found in their website https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2018/the-snowman/

All in all, The Snowman stage shows manages to capture the essence of the animation and takes something that is so ingrained in the public’s hearts and minds, and do it justice whilst offering new highlights to keep it fresh and exciting. It’s a must see production for the whole family, and something that will bring you back year upon year, creating a new Christmas tradition that all will treasure for years to come.

*special thanks goes to Sadlers Wells Peacock Theatre and photographer Tristram Kenton*

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Q&A with Cameron Ball Cast Member of The Snowman Stage Production

Q&A with Cameron Ball Cast Member of The Snowman Stage Production

There are a number of things that have become quintessential to a typical Bristish Christmas, pigs in blankets, bad festive jumpers, and The Snowman animation on the tv on Christmas Eve.
Since it’s tv debut in 1982, the story of The Snowman, written by Ramond Briggs published in 1978, has become a huge part of many people’s Christmas tradition. And so, it seems, has the stage production!

Originally staged by the Manchester Contact Theatre back in 1986, it now resides at sadlers Wells Theatre, and has been performed there every year since 1999.
Cameron Ball, one of the cast members, answered some of our questions on what it’s like being part of something so special and what makes it’s so magical.
DN. The original story of Snowman is 40 years old and animated version almost 35. How does it feel to be part of what has become a national treasure?

CB. This is my fifth year performing in The Snowman, both in the title role and more recently in other roles. I feel very fortunate to be part of what is such a highlight of the Christmas season for many families. The story is timeless and always captures the imagination of the children who watch both the cartoon and stage version (now in its 21st year). I’m sure it will be around for another 35 years! Many of the cast and crew return to the show over the years as it’s such a unique production to be part of. This is my fifth time with the show – and it feels like coming back to a family! The show schedule is quite intense so you quickly form bonds with the cast and crew.

DN. Did you watch it as a child?

CB. I’m originally from Australia so the story and cartoon wasn’t a huge part of my childhood, but you quickly realise how much of an institution it is here. Now I make sure I don’t miss it every Christmas!

DN. How does the music make you feel?

CB. Howard Blake’s music is a joy to dance to. There is such a variety of styles and keeps things very interesting. The score is truly made for dance – it feels at once fresh and yet familiar, which is the genius of it I think. Of course, ‘Walking in the Air’ is a classic – there’s always a surge of adrenaline when it plays as you know the story is reaching a climactic moment!
DN. There are no words in this production, the whole story is told through movement. How does that change the way you dance in this production compared to others?

CB. As the cartoon and stage production use no spoken word, it has true international appeal. It means some characterisation needs to be bigger, and the mime and physical theatre is employed throughout. It’s a testament to Bill Alexander’s original direction, and the fabulous team that restage the show each year, that the story is told so vividly even without the spoken word.

DN. What is your dance background?

CB. I trained extensively in ballet, and in musical theatre. The ballet training has been very useful for The Snowman as Robert North’s choreography is rooted in ballet.

My career has mainly been in musical theatre both in the West End and internationally, as well as performing in various dance productions at The Royal Opera House, Royal Albert Hall, Sadler’s Wells and others.

DN. How did you prepare for the audition?

CB. The audition is a mix of ballet, contemporary dance and pas de deux work. Robert North’s style is quite particular so you have to be able to pick this up quickly. I familiarised myself with the story and the character, but the joy (or curse?) of auditioning is you never truly know what to expect! I always go to auditions with a positive attitude and an open mind, as every experience is different.

DN. How long are you in rehearsals before staging the show?

CB. The rehearsal schedule is tight – around three weeks. There is a lot to rehearse as we have three boys who share the role, who each need a fair amount of time, and there are major technical wonders like flying to perfect! The show is a well-oiled machine though – the team pull together and make sure everything is ready for the first performance.
DN. How much work goes into the special effects such as the flying scenes and the snow?

CB. I’m not giving any of the magic away, but let’s just say there are a whole team of people backstage ensuring the flying goes smoothly as it’s no small task! When The Snowman and the boy first take flight, there are always gasps of wonderment from the audience which is really exciting.The snow is a combination of lighting effects and real falling white powder. If you’re lucky you might get snowed on in the audience too!

DN. What reaction do you get from the younger members of audience?

CB. The show is a fantastic introduction to theatre as it encourages our younger audiences to experience a wide range of emotional responses: joy, sadness, suspense, humour, and a bit of magic. The way the story is told is very visual, and it moves along at a rapid pace, so it holds the attention of the children watching. The presence of familiar characters like woodland animals, a feisty cat, toy soldiers and ballerinas, and maybe even a visit from Santa Claus and his reindeer, means there is something for every child.

DN. Finally, what is on your list from Father Christmas this year?

CB. The good thing about performing in The Snowman is you can eat whatever you like over the festive season and stay in decent shape. I’m mostly looking forward to family time over the season, and some of my favourite sweet treats from my home land of Australia would be very welcome!

The Snowman is currently showing at sadlers Wells Theatre until 6th January. You can find dates and ticket information on their website https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2018/the-snowman/
Watch out for my review article of the production next week for an in depth view of the production and opinions from the youngest reviewers at Dance Niche, my children!
*Special thanks goes to Saddlers Wells, Cameron Ball for answering our questions and photographers Simon Kelski for the headshot and Tristram Kenton for production shot*
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