Theatre review: Powerhouse Theatre brings Norm Foster’s ‘sweat’ story to life

 
 
 
Snow White (Judy Rose, above right) and Vince Charming (Paul Lawson) discuss wooing under the watchful eye of the Fairly Good Mother (Roxanne Ricard) in A Snow White Christmas, making its western Canada premiere at Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre Dec. 3 to 13.— Image Credit: Cara Nunn  
   

by Kristin Froneman - Vernon Morning Star posted Dec 5, 2014 at 1:00 AM

 
 

It’s a misnomer to think that there is always a happy ending. Look at Snow White.

In the antithesis of the Disney version, Norm Foster’s musical A Snow White Christmas, making its western Canada premiere now at Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre, sees Snow years after she was swept off her proverbial feet by Prince Charming. Turns out the guy was a bit of a cad, skulking off with Cinderella and leaving poor Snow to fend for herself, with the help of seven wayward souls.

However, Dopey, Sneezy and Bashful are nowhere to be seen in this version, directed by Jackson Mace. Instead, a ragged looking and slightly bitter Ms. White (played by Judy Rose) now runs a sweat shop (the a is silent, we are told) with a group of sweet orphans, led by the always starving waif Max (Mica Lemiski).

Then there’s the inept Fairly Good Mother (Roxanne Ricard), who is sent to help. Problem is she doesn’t know why and even worse, she has a faulty wand (it’s on loan, we are told).

It’s a funny and almost realistic twist on the beloved fairytale and is played beautifully by a band of talented actor/singers. Leading that group is local jazz chanteuse Rose, who plays White as both raucous and demure. Those emotions translate in her singing the story-driven and rather wordy songs written by famed Toronto composer/librettist David Warrack. Rose’s vocal pipes should be bronzed. They are that powerful.

Both classically trained singers, Ricard and Lemiski’s vocals are just as gorgeous - soft and sweet when needed, and both can hit some painfully high notes. Ricard, new to Powerhouse, is especially notable in her performance. Let’s hope we see her on the local stage again.

But enough about the women. Sorry Nellie McClung, but it’s the men that really steal the show here.... Making his entrance with one fail swoop of his cape, and his Guy Smiley grin, is Vince Charming (Paul Lawson), who has just opened his art reproduction business, Charming Prints (get it?), across the street from Snow’s sweat (again, the a is silent) shop. As the man in tights, Lawson is hilarious and camps it up to Mt. Everest proportions. And he’s got a pretty decent singing voice to boot.

Also camping it up in Cockney accents, no less, are the “bad” guys, Derek (Bob Oldfield) and Freddie (Cliff Lattery). Reminiscent of the two villains from Home Alone – in that one is smart, the other not so much – these guys come up with a plot to steal the Evil Queen’s magic mirror that is now in Snow’s possession. (And yes, the mirror does speak, and funny enough, the “genie” inside it looks awfully like a certain director.) Oldfield and Lattery play off one another superbly – and bring a certain warmth to what is a surprise twist near the end of the play.

Actually, there are a few surprises in this fun and silly story. As one of Canada’s most produced playwrights, Foster has once again brought the humanity to the absurd, and Powerhouse does a commendable job of bringing that to life.

The show will also get you right into the Christmas mood, especially with the incredible snow-globe feel of the revolving sets designed by Cara Nunn, who with her crew have created a village fit for a Prince and his Snow White. I guess everyone deserves a happy ending, after all.

A Snow White Christmas continues at Powerhouse Theatre until Dec. 13. Contact the Ticket Seller (549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca) for tickets and show information.

– Kristin Froneman is the arts-ent editor for the Vernon Morning Star.