note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Beverly Creasey
The Wheelock Family Theatre's SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS is a wacky combination of the traditional Grimm 'Snow White' story, with a touch of 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears.' And when the fabulous Bob Saoud takes the stage in his red tights, ruby slippers and his best Margaret Hamilton cackle, you'll think it's Oz.
Jessie Braham White's quirky script leaves room for lots of hi-jinks--and pratfalls for a bombastic courtier named, appropriately enough, Sir Dandiprat Bombas. Doug Lockwood has lots of fun trying to herd eight frisky ladies-in-waiting into a dignified minuet. The dance is meant to entertain the handsome prince (Shelley Bolman) who has come, of course, to find a wife.
He falls head over heels for Snow White with her "hair as black as ebony, her lips redder than a drop of blood and a heart as pure as snow" which does not please her stepmother, the evil queen with the mirror on the wall. Yahanna Faith gives Snow just the right amounts of gumption and naivete to stand up to the charismatic Robin V. Allison as the imperious queen.
The story proceeds as you might think it would, with room for chases through the audience. Director Jane Staab knows the children will love seeing the characters up close. My favorites were the wee chipmunks and squirrels who scampered through the forest and up the aisles (although I feared one of them would fall prey to Elbert Joseph's knife).
Joseph gives a moving performance as the queen's reluctant henchman. You may remember that he sacrifices an animal to save Snow's life. This is brutal stuff, if you ask me, but no less an authority than psychologist Bruno Bettelheim says children need these harrowing tales to work out their own autonomy. When I was a tot, they scared me to death--but the children in the Wheelock audience oohed and aahed and giggled with delight. Even the tiny ones.
Marian Piro's whimsical costumes transformed seven of Boston's best actors into grumpy, grimy dwarfs, with disguises so thorough I almost couldn't tell who was who. Each dwarf had his own walk (Ellen Colton's Blabber, for instance, seemed to walk in all directions at once, as if left and right feet were vying for dominance.) Susan Bigger's Nudge was one and Mariko Kanto's Squeaky did. What fun to watch! So take the kids. You'll enjoy Bob Saoud's Milton Berle of a witch and the children will be tickled as he whirls about the stage like a dervish, vamping till the sets are changed.