First Night: Pale imitation of a children's winter classic

The Snowman Peacock Theatre London

THE ONLY similarity between snow and cotton wool is that they are both white. The only similarity between the animated film of Raymond Briggs' The Snowman and the stage version is, well - the music.

It was always going to be difficult to re-create the magic and grace of the film on stage, let alone the snow. As far as the latter goes, they've used a kind of ruched netting, a bit like an all-over tutu. But otherwise, Bill Alexander's production is low on ideas.

He relies heavily on Howard Blake's much-loved score, which prompts unfavourable comparisons. At best it is a pale imitation of the film, at worst it is just slavish.

The Boy takes the Snowman into his house and shows him his world. The bouncy Snowman nearly knocks the Christmas tree over, almost melts in front of the fire, tries on Dad's false teeth, enjoys a bit of disco dancing with the switching on and off of an electric light. The same jokes were there, plus a few new dance numbers thrown in.

An odd design decision makes the furniture oversized once the Snowman is alive, even though it was the normal size before. Too much cumbersome shifting of sets and changing of scenes makes it all very laborious.

Towards the end of the first half, things seem to be taking off when Snowman and Boy soar into the air. A little bit of magic certainly stirs the air. But any Christmas show worth its salt will have actors on wires before too long. Once they are up there, the ideas run out again.

The stage version of The Snowman should really be a ballet. The second half, which is entirely given over to dancing snowmen and women, is much more fun. Here you have snowmen in kilts and cowboy suits, penguins, reindeer and, of course, Father Christmas. Robert North's choreography is allowed to take centre stage, and while it's not going to set the world on fire, it has a certain charm.

It is old fashioned in the best sense - no vulgarity, no soap stars, no blue jokes for the dads in the audience. Children could do worse than this for their Christmas outing - but I've a feeling they could do better.

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