The Wellington Advertiser

A Snow White Christmas -- not what you think -- it’s much better

Steven Sparks and Amy Sellors  

REVIEW: by Chris Daponte


ORANGEVILLE - Theatre Orangeville is billing its latest musical A Snow White Christmas as “a new twist on a beloved tale.” But, as audiences will discover, that is a huge - and hilarious - understatement.

Make no mistake, this is not your great grandmother’s Snow White. Far from it. Here, Snow White (played by Amy Sellors) is in her 40s and running a candy shop on the backs of orphaned child labourers.

Long separated from Prince Charming, she is single, jaded and bitter. But it’s not long before she is wooed by the familiarly-named Vince Charming (Stephen Sparks), a nearby store owner whose over-the-top, gallant advances she originally rejects. They team together to thwart the efforts of self-professed “bad” guys Derek (Bobby Prochaska) and Freddie (Timm Hughes) who plot to kidnap Prudence (Peyton Lawrence-Page), one of Snow White’s little minions, as ransom for a magical mirror. Fellow child labourer Max (Katie Pound) and the Fairly Good Mother (Rebecca Poff) also join the effort to ensure Prudence is returned home safely.

Like most holiday tales, A Snow White Christmas wraps everything up in a jolly, festive bow, but there are a number of twists to keep things interesting throughout. Enhancing the production are the fabulous set, costumes, lighting (though there was at least one lighting hiccup during the Nov. 28 preview show) and choreography. Seven-year-old Lawrence-Page and 14-year-old Pound are both adorable. Pound was perhaps too quiet in some spots, but flawless projection cannot be expected at her age. She is a rising star with loads of talent.

Prochaska and Hughes are superb as the pair of bumbling, would-be thieves, adeptly walking the line between villains and hapless souls. They have remarkable chemistry together and more than hold their own vocally among the other performers.

Sellors seems perfectly cast as the slightly-past-her-prime Snow White. She is has a commanding presence on stage and seems to have a great range, vocally and otherwise.

But it is Sparks and Poff who steal the show on more than one occasion, performing the bulk of the play’s comedic material with relative ease. Both are stellar vocally, particularly Poff, and both are impeccable in their ability to relay the over-the-top vanity and frustration of their respective characters that is provided in several scenes by writers Norm Foster (book) and David Warrack (music and lyrics).

There were a few missteps at the preview show: the otherwise-great Theatre Orangeville Youth Singers were out of synch choreographically in a couple spots and there was the odd fumbled line from an actor or two. The play also stalls a bit in the second half, but these are minor critiques of what overall is a great production.

Quite simply, A Snow White Christmas is an uproarious, world class musical from two ingenious Canadian theatre legends. Foster and Warrack must have had a blast working on this world premiere musical - their first collaboration - and it shows. It has all the touchstones of a typical Foster play (heart, humour and witty dialogue) interspersed with the remarkable ability of Warrack to turn the seemingly banal (one character’s frustration with a magic wand or another’s lack of employable skills) into an entertaining and amusing musical number.

When Foster set out to write his fourth Christmas show - and 50th play overall - he said he wanted to make it “enjoyable for children and adults.” He and Warrack have definitely succeeded in that regard; A Snow White Christmas will be enjoyed by young and old alike.

To be fair, given the title, audiences should be specifically forewarned not to expect the angelic lead character, nor the typical, virtuous fairy tale. Truth be told, this version is much more entertaining.

A Snow White Christmas plays five shows a week until Dec. 22. For tickets call 519-942-3423 or 1-800-424-1295 or visit December 6, 2013