dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
A frozen fairy tales comes to Birmingham
Hans Christian Andersen's classic The Snow Queen is given a re-telling in a new festive musical at Birmingham Old Rep Theatre this Christmas. Produced by Birmingham Ormiston Academy and following the success of last year's Pinocchio, the show runs until the end of the year.
In Andersen's fairytale, the Snow Queen kidnaps a little boy Kai and keeps him prisoner in her frozen palace. But Kai's best friend Gerda sets off to discover and rescue the missing youngster – braving the icy world of the Snow Queen to do so. And in this new production, there's also a back story to explain why the Snow Queen's heart is frozen.
For director Alec Fellows-Bennett it's important to create a new show each year for the city. "The Snow Queen is a brand-new musical written for The Old Rep and for the city and it's definitely a Christmas musical," he says. "I like being able to take something from the very beginning and put our Christmas message out there without having to crowbar it into a story which already exists. We can look at the story and give it an angle for today. We have total freedom and can be current."
And he adds: "Creating something new and different enables us to create it for the actors who are playing it. There's a collaborative process of having the composer, the author, the choreographer and myself, the director, all in a room and then being able literally to bounce off the talents of the actors we've got. My driving force always begins with entertaining people. I want them to go out from the show and say they had a brilliant afternoon, they've laughed, they've cried, they've danced, they've sung – that's the primary goal."
The Old Rep Christmas productions are popular with schools and Alec believes they may be the first time some children have seen a live piece of theatre. "Because we try to keep our prices as low as we can and because we're a city centre theatre, for a lot of kids it's their only experience of theatre. It's one of the reasons I don't put in traditional gags - because they don't actually know them. They wouldn't know to shout 'it's behind you' because so many of them have never stepped into a theatre before."
While the production features professional actors in the lead roles and is created by a professional team, it also offers students at BOA a chance to gain valuable experience of being involved in a live production.
BOA executive principal and CEO Gaynor Cheshire says: "This is a real-life experience of working with a professional creative team and being part of a cast with professional actors. It's not a school show, it is real theatre with a paying audience. If this is what the young people want to do as a career, then they are experiencing it and understanding the commitment that's involved in doing two shows a day for weeks. They are giving up their half term holiday and being at rehearsal from 10am to 6pm so they know what commitment it needs."
The Snow Queen is staged at The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham until December 30. For tickets and information see www.oldreptheatre.co.uk or call 0121 359 9444.