dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
New take on a classic fairy tale
The rest of the country may be going mad for the newest Frozen movie but Birmingham has its very own icy world under the frosty grip of The Snow Queen. Produced by Birmingham Ormiston Academy and staged at The Old Rep Theatre until the end of the year, the show takes a classic fairy tale and shakes it up.
Based on Hans Christian Andersen's story, The Snow Queen tells of a woman whose heart is so cold she cannot bear to see kindness and understanding in the world and so sends splinters of hatred into the eyes of all children as they turn 13 so they will grow up as unloving and as unloved as she is. When her reign is threatened by the generous-spirited Kai who pledges not to change on his 13th birthday, she captures the youngster and locks him in her icy kingdom. But Kai's best friend Gerda is prepared to brave enchanted forests, robbers and goblins to rescue him.
All wrapped up in this tale, like your favourite Christmas present, is the idea that we should value people who are different from us and be kind to all – not a bad festive message and one played out by the special friendship between the two children. Writer Toby Hulse and director Alec Fellows-Bennett ensure the moral isn't preachy by delivering it in a fun and colourful musical.
Letitia Hector strides across the show as a formidable Snow Queen. Dressed top to toe in silver and white and with bundles of silver and white white hair, she towers over the rest of the cast as she harries her goblins, scorns Gerda and puts Kai under a spell. Her arrival on a motorbike to capture Kai is a moment of theatrical genius, the only slight disappointment is that at times the music drowns out Hector's lyrics which is a shame as she's performing them with plenty of gusto.
Christina Harris is a feisty Gerda who refuses to give up even when it appears she's beaten. At the press performance, her rallying cry that she will save Kai no matter what gained her at least one cheer from a supporter in the audience.
The other cast members play multiple roles. Charlie Keable is hilarious as Hader the goblin who goes 'undercover' as a Danish girl and a Swedish woodcutter to lots of slapstick silliness. His woodcutter song, in which he is backed by Bjorn and Benny, even references Abba. Tom Sturgess is very likeable as Kai and shows his adaptability by also mastering the challenging role of the Crow. Alexandra Daszewski is Gerda's sister Karen who switches from charming to horrible on her 13th birthday as well as playing the elderly Mormor who bewitches Gerda in the woods.
The rest of the cast is made up of BOA students who play roles including children, goblins and robbers with plenty of enthusiasm. They are given plenty of opportunities to share their skills with some fabulous songs by Steve Allan Jones. The sets, by Amy Carroll, take us from Gerda's cosy bedroom, through the forest and into the frozen wasteland of the Snow Queen.
By taking a simple fairy tale and turning into a colourful musical, the team have created a great new Christmas show for children and adults alike. At The Old Rep Theatre until December 30.