SALT LAKE CITY – Before the show began, I sat in a theatre full to the brim with children, all anxious for the show to begin. Excitement and joy filled the air. What would happen? How would this live production be different from Disney’s rendition of Snow White? I’m not going to lie; I was just as curious and affected by the atmosphere.
The script (written by Joanne Parker) follows more accurately the plot of the Brothers Grimm, Grimm’s Fairy Tales.. The play opens with queen Rosalind (played by Nova Calverly-Chase), sitting on a bench, doing her needlework. Snow falls by the use of the lighting design (by Tom Hohl) over the structure at the back of the stage, and a mood of cold, clean, and expectation is set. The king, Richard (played by Taylor Smith), enters, and Rosalind pricks her finger with her needle as red blood spills on the white of her material. She makes a comparison of the cleanness of the white, and expresses a wish that her child will have skin the color of snow white. A crow crashes into the window and Rosalind expresses concern about the poor bird – a concern that comes into play later down the road.
After Richard leaves, a servant enters and pulls two panels of curtains across an opening in the structure. As he pulls the curtains, an image of a face is projected onto the material to create a magic mirror. The mirror tells Rosalind that her child will be a daughter, of course a beautiful daughter, and kind to boot. From there, the queen produces an heir, the queen dies, the king remarries, and the plot is in full swing.
The set, designed by James Parker, is bare enough to let the imagination fly, yet solid enough to establish space. There is a single structure on stage, a decagon cut in half, from floor, to almost ceiling. Beams hold up the structure, and the inside is used for entrances and exits, for the mirror, and for additional set pieces. On the floor of the stage, coming out of the structure, is a blue marquise type shape, with white pathways. One of the most intricate set pieces was a table that the “evil queen” Raven (played by Jamine Jones Hohl) brings out, which is full of bottles and potions, complete with a fog-like affect that adds to the creepiness of the atmosphere.
Tom Hohl’s lighting showed that the innate good and morals of the piece were in colors of blue and the tones of cold. Consequently, the evil – which lay almost entirely with the stepmother queen, were perfect reds. The lighting certainly establishes a mood, and combined with the artful acting (especially from Claverly-Chase when she plays an old woman and Jasmine Jones Hohl) and the sound effects, a fair numberof the children in the audience were screaming and in tears.
Meighan Smith used imagination and creativity in her directing to keep the attention of the young audience that this theatre is specifically geared towards. There were some lovely things happening with movement in this piece, from the spells that were cast, to the puppetry of the crow, and snow white lost in the woods. When the evil queen casts her spells, her magic forces the body of her victims to convulse and bend to her will. In one part of the show, Jasmine Jones Hohl casts a spell on the king and turns him into a crow. The crow is placed on Smith’s arm, and some captivating puppetry ensues. The crow becomes the constant companion of Snow White, which is a lovely thought and idea, showing that ultimately her father is by her side and watching over her throughout everything. Another beautiful part of the staging happens when snow white escapes and is lost in the forest. Members of the cast hold up branches, which encircle her and move around her, eventually hanging over her.
The acting by all of the cast members is superb. They are all loud enough and clear enough, so that everyone in the audience can hear clearly, which is especially important to ensure the attention of the children. The puppetry work by Taylor Smith is detailed and creative. Snow White, played by Aubrey Yates, and all of the dwarves are terrific with their upbeat energy. As the evil queen Jasmine Jones Hohl is eerie and terrifying, but also detailed and meticulous. Jasmine Jones Hohl continually checks out her image in anything shiny, laughs in a maniacal manner, and uses little body movements to capture the villainy of her character. The Costumes for the raven, designed by Karissa Nelson, became progressively elaborate throughout the production to emphasize her evil heart.
As a slew of little girls entered the theatre, dressed in their little snow-white costumes, mirroring the Disney princess, I couldn’t help but wonder at the draw these tales have toward children. While this rendition was different than the Disney movie, there is still an importance placed on beauty and aesthetics, with kindness being secondary. The mother still dies, and the focus is more on the role of the father. Additionally, Snow White is a completely one-dimensional character, who is beautiful, and nice and kind, no matter what the circumstances, never cracking her façade. Having my six-year-old daughter with me, I couldn’t help but question whether this was the message and story that would be a learning tool for her, or whether it was fine that the same tired old expression of being “saved” from danger is adequate.
Regardless of my internal struggles as to the consequences of gender reaffirmations, this production was entertaining and delightful. All aspects of this production were well executed and fun. Note that some of the children had to leave because they were scared, so before taking children, I recommend that parents determine whether the show might be too scary for very young audiences.