Mirror, Mirror on the wall - whose is the loveliest Panto of them all? Well, in Pasadena it's The Playhouse, which has begun a new holiday tradition with this year's debut of Lythgoe Productions' A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS. By combining the best of the genre's British elements and refashioning them for an American audience, writer Kris Lythgoe and director Bonnie Lythgoe have created a sparkling new family entertainment that will put a smile on the face of even the Grinchiest uncle.
You know the story: Hated by the Wicked Queen (Charlene Tilton) because of her beauty, Snow White (Ariana Grande) is taken to the woods to be killed by the Queen's court jester, Muddles (Jonathan Meza) and her Huntsman, Herman (David Figlioli). Unable to perform the task, they tell her to run away to the miners' cottage in the woods where she will be safe but she must never return to the palace. When the Queen consults her Magic Mirror (pre-recorded by Neil Patrick Harris) and finds that Snow White is still alive, she poisons her with an apple. Snow White falls into a deep sleep, is eventually awakened by true love's kiss, and she and Prince Harry (Curt Hansen) live happily ever after.
Grande is as sweet and lovely a Snow White as there ever could be and breathes life into a pop song like nobody's business. Screams from the audience are an obvious sign of the television star's popularity among the teens and younger set, and she rewards them with dazzling vocals throughout the show. Hansen makes a roguish prince with dashing good looks, perfect diction, and a comical array of princely poses that includes some serious raised eyebrow choreography.
As the Queen, Tilton puts on her best smoky-throated villainess, whom we love to boo, and her interactions with Harris - perfectly wry and nuanced as her Magic Mirror - only fuel her anger. Figlioli gives a rich performance as Herman the Huntsman and Meza charms everyone with Muddles' quick wit, rubbery moves, and easygoing audience banter. It's the seven dwarves, however, who steal the show with their long-awaited entrance. Played by local children cast from a rigorous audition, they embody the individual personalities of the costumed characters and are absolutely delightful.
Vivid backdrops, bright crayon-colored costumes, and fascinating lighting effects that come and go like magic help create the fairytale world. The score consists of pop songs that enhance the traditional story. Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" becomes Snow White's answer for why the Wicked Queen hates her; Huey Lewis and the News' "Power of Love" marks Prince Harry's search for one particular princess, and Bruno Mars' "Lazy Song" is a charming introduction for the dwarves who sing about taking a day off from mining. "YMCA," "Thriller," and "Toxic," plus six other chart-topping hits, make up the rest of the score, plus there's a special sing-a-long for the audience too. Musical director Michael Orland puts it all together beautifully. Add a live miniature pony onstage, Spencer Liff's Dancers, and more topical jokes than you can imagine, and you've got a classic in the making.
A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS also comes with a pre-show Winter Wonderland of family activities, games, and photos with Santa Claus, making Pasadena Playhouse the hot holiday destination this Christmas. Actually, with snow flurries inside the theatre and out, make that a frosty destination. It's lively, fun, and a perfect way to celebrate the season. And once you've taken your kids to a Panto at The Playhouse, you can bet they'll never let you miss another.
A Snow White Christmas
December 12 - 30, 2012
Lythgoe Family Productions @ Pasadena Playhouse
39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101
Tickets: (626) 356-7529 www.pasadenaplayhouse.org
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Pictured above: Ariana Grande (Snow White) and Curt Hansen (Prince Harry). Photo credit: Philicia Endelman.