Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Snowman Theatre Review at Manchester Opera House (For All Ages)

The Snowman has arrived at Manchester Opera House and will be there until Sunday. The Birmingham Repertory Theatre production with a cast of 16 was first performed in 1993 and just as the book and the short film haven't really aged, neither has the stage show.


I'll start by saying I am a MASSIVE fan of The Snowman. I love Raymond Briggs work, I have several of his books and my earliest memory of reading with my parents is Father Christmas. His book The Snowman was released when I was only just 7 and has been an annual read ever since. I may have begun the show a bit biased.

I went with my partner and our 2 boys aged 7 and 9. We all had lots of questions about how The Snowman was going to work, would it be believable,what about the flying? Costumes? Lack of dialogue?


While the idea of a theatrical performance of The Snowman might conjure up a vision of people in fluffy onsies leaping about the stage on wires and a padded out bizarrely reimagined storyline, it really isn't what we found tonight at Manchester Opera House. This was every bit a professional performance, costumes became irrelevant and the flying was pretty neat. There also happened to be a full orchestra performing the perfect musical accompaniment.

The storyline is only very slightly extended and adapted, instead it is a very literal live version of the original Raymond Briggs book and the half hour animated TV movie. Unless you managed to avoid Christmas TV for the last 35 years, you'll know it well and you can recognise every scene...

Before the show even began falling snow was projected across the darkened stage and it put everyone into the right mood. The set was awesome. Larger than life and almost spot on perfectly representative of the movie and book world, where snow hangs in giant carpets across branches and glistens in white and blue.

The initial set was the most complicated and my favourite. Recognisably upstairs, downstairs and outside, I was just wide-mouthed in awe at how accurately the animated world was depicted. The TV, the window, the pyjamas, that famous scarf. This went on throughout the play, with the motorbike especially impressive.

Lighting is used to great effect, the morning dawn, the change of hue as dusk creeps in and night time partying begins. The blue arctic shades really worked and I think the entire audience thought about putting their cardigan on.

The cast were brilliant. Spot on and almost perfectly in time with the musical accompaniment. There was a fair amount of dancing, often balletic, with a host of woodland creatures and even en pointe from the beautiful Snow Princess and Sugar Plum Fairy. There was also the country dance style of the Snowpeople, penguins and reindeer at the North Pole with Santa - it was perfect.

Included in the performance, but not in the book or animated movie, are the beautiful ballerina and Jack Frost. They fit in, although I don't know that this little bit of villainy and romance were even necessary. We're all so familiar with the storyline and characters that it seemed a bit confusing, or maybe I'm just more of a purist than I realise.


When the boy (who the film named James) builds The Snowman, it is almost magic and I think that's the moment I realised this is not a performance aimed at children, it's actually even more so about recreating that excitement for the adults. A friend mentioned it at the interval and my partner did afterwards. We all grew up with The Snowman and there was something very special about seeing him come alive for real. He was believable and his costume, just like the others, was excellent. It can't be easy to try and design something like that, pulling it off so well is a feat in itself.

It would be remiss not to mention the flying, and Aled Jones. There was an appropriate amount of Walking In The Air and it was genuine 'walking', understated and fitting, not Superman poses and show off twirls. My sons have a complaint though. The boy definitely can't fly solo and at one point he let go of The Snowman's hand. They both expected him to fall! They may have seen the Irn Bru Advert a few times...

At the very end the entire cast came on stage and as they left bubble snow was piped out over the front few rows of the audience. All the children went over to play and it was a lovely way to end the performance.

The Snowman is a really good production for children and adults of all ages. Nostalgia, magic, dance and a very talented cast, mixed in with a live orchestra and a lot of snow. At 1 hour 45 with an interval it's not too long for young ones and they don't 'pad out' the original story very much, so there are regular (and often very clever or subtle) scene changes to keep everyone in anticipation of what is going to be next - and how accurately it'll model the movie!


Because there is no spoken language in this theatrical production, it is suitable for speakers of any language and people who are deaf or have hearing impairment. Manchester Opera House tries to be accessible to as many people as possible and you can find out more about their accessibility here.

The Snowman will be at Manchester Opera House until Sunday and tickets are still available. Ticket prices (£15-£40) and times vary. Find out more and see the full Winter programme on the ATG Tickets, Manchester Opera House website or call the box office on 0844 871 3018.

For a different opinion see what Sarah from Extraordinary Chaos and Colette from Going On An Adventure thought of the show.


Our tickets were free of charge for review.

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