Fort Worth — While Rapunzel is letting down her hair over at Dallas Children's Theater, the musical masterminds behind Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale are having the world premiere of another fairy tale adaptation across the Trinity River. Snow White and the Prince opens the new season of Casa Mañana Children's Theatre’s 2014-15 season. The show by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman opened Friday night, in its world premiere, with the writers in the audience.
Other musical adaptations for children by Vogt and Friedman include The Magical Adventures of Merlin, How I Became a Pirate (which Casa and DCT have both done) and Sleepy Hollow: A Musical Tale. They are currently hard at work on Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Crown Jewel. The pair also collaborates on musicals for adults.
Vogt’s and Friedman’s new version of Snow White is more straightforward than their fractured version of Rapunzel and played more for romance than laughs. Comic relief comes from the Magic Mirror, who is sick of answering the question about who’s the fairest, blah, blah, blah, from the Evil Queen, and the dwarves, who bring the first lively production number to a musical heavy on the ballads.
The story begins with the Evil Queen questioning her poor mirror about her beauty, when she is reminded that it is the day of her stepdaughter’s birthday ball. Before the ball, we get a glimpse of who has really raised and nurtured Snow White—her nursemaid. Then it’s away to the ball, where Snow meets the handsome Prince Phillippe and lands on the Magic Mirror’s radar as the new “fairest in the land.” This doesn’t please her narcissistic stepmother, who vows to banish Snow to the dungeon at dawn. Hearing of the Evil Queen’s plans, Snow’s nursemaid packs her up and sends her into the woods to hide.
Petite Emma Colwell is a sweet, big-eyed Snow White with a lovely, lilting voice. Her prince, played by Charlie Ray, is the perfect complement to her. Their fresh, young faces are expressive and adorable. They make it easy to buy “happily ever after.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Cara Statham Serber is deliciously wicked as the domineering queen of mean that gets as close as you can get to a dominatrix in a children’s theater production. Much of that is thanks to costume designer Tammy Spencer’s skin-tight Spandex unitard with knee-high high-heeled boots and a riding crop. The ensemble comes together regally with a floor-length purple duster and spider-webby collar. Serber’s transformation to the old hag in Act 2 is an amazing about face, thanks again to Spencer’s costuming and Catherine Petty-Rogers’ masterful makeup design.
As the Magic Mirror, Ryan Page gets the best lines, the most wordplay and the hardest costume to maneuver. The result is an endearing performance that’s like the enchanted furniture pieces in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Paul Taylor and Cate Cozzens round out the cast as Prince Phillippe’s stoic butler, Rupert, and Snow White’s nursemaid. In a refreshing touch, the dwarves that take in Snow White include two girls and one sweetly goofy, over-sized dwarf.
Director Noah Putterman, Casa Mañana’s director of Children’s Theatre and Education, keeps his cast moving through a multitude of set changes on Katie Dill’s storybook set. There’s one piece of pantomime during the prince’s arrival at the palace that seems oddly out of place, but it’s quickly forgotten as the action moves forward.
Samuel Rushen adds magical lighting to help tell the story, from thunderstorms to a sun-dappled forest and dramatic lighting for the Evil Queen.
Sally Gardner provides musical direction for the show’s songs. No song titles are listed in the playbill, but the highlight is the song the dwarves sing with a rock beat and cute choreography by Elise Lavallee.
The story of Snow White and the Prince will be familiar to the kids, just be sure they aren’t expecting Disney’s version of Snow White with dwarves heigh-hoing off to the diamond mines and everyone will leave the theater happy and not grumpy.