New Musical: Snow Child Debuts in Washington, DC

Snow Child, a new musical that debuted at The Arena Stage in Washington, DC, on April 13th, follows a childless couple as they make their new life in the wilderness of Alaska. Desperate for a child, the couple begins encountering a wild girl in the snow, but it seems only they can see her.

The novel, by author Eowyn Ivey, was first published in 2012 and remains a popular book club choice today. The story, based on a Russian folk tale, revolves around Jack (Matt Bogart) and Mabel (Christiane Noll), a couple that lost a child and reacted by moving from Pennsylvania to Alaska. When the musical opens, Mabel considers suicide as she walks across an icy river. Just as she has all but given up, she hears the voice of a young girl singing, and the voice gives her hope again.

All the actors performed each song with as much energy as possible. The problem was they didn’t have much to work with. The story and the music were weak and not at all memorable. I liked very few songs, and sadly, none stood out. An hour after leaving the production, I couldn’t recite a single lyric or song title, which is not a good sign for a musical.

Everything outside of the story and music (sadly, two of the major components of a musical) was brilliantly done. The scenery was gorgeous, and the puppets and puppeteers were masterful as the forest and farm animals. Visually, the musical seemed perfect for younger children, but the story content did not target kids.

Unfortunately, the shortcuts taken in the musical leave out some of the more critical details of the novel’s story. For this very reason, characters’ choices can seem confusing or unexpected. The flow is choppy at best, and the first half suffers significantly.

If the entire musical had the same tone as the second act, I would’ve enjoyed the play so much more. Mabel finds an inner strength she didn’t know she had, Jack battles back from death, and I actually started to like the whiny neighbor kid! The story gets increasingly better, and the music… well, the music still sucks but hey, at least the story improves.

Not having read Snow Child prior to seeing the musical, I was satisfied with the ending. (But, my companion, who had read the book, was not happy.) I wish I could rave about this musical, but I just can’t. A musical theater production with boring music isn’t worth anyone’s time. As always, see the musical if you’re interested and decide for yourself if the theater adaptation is worth your time.

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