Hip hop takes a fairy tale for a sci-fi spin in The Freshest Snow Whyte at Imagination Stage (review)

The Snow Whyte of the future is a lot doper than the one of the past. She’s also a lot more gender friendly and fiercer. The girl is no longer just a pretty face, thanks to The Freshest Snow Whyte at Imagination Stage, which puts a sci-fi spin on an old fairytale and infuses it with hip hop to make a statement about equality today.

Katy Carkuff as Snow Whyte in The Freshest Snow Whyte at Imagination Stage (Photo: Margot Schulman)

The year is 3000, and Snow Whyte (Katy Carkuff) is an orphan who’s been raised by her uncle, Kanye East (Calvin McCullough)—a childish billionaire and graffiti artist—and his robot butler, 3Pac (Frank Britton). She’s a graffiti artist too, using the latest technology, a graffiti device, to paint murals that are then judged by Mira (Jonathan Feuer), who declares all manner of things “the freshest,” which is the best honor anyone can get in the future.

Ms. Whyte gives her uncle a run for his money, which infuriates him. So, he takes her for a trip and maroons her on Planet Palladium. While there, she’s taken in by a couple of alien twins called K Rock (Taylor Robinson) and Pop Lock (Louis E. Davis).

Like her predecessor, Snow Whyte must rebuff the chicanery of her scheming uncle, who shows up on Palladium dressed like the police and learns the value of hard work (in this case, sweeping and spray painting graffiti with cans, not electronics).

(l-r) Taylor Robinson, Calvin McCullough, Katy Carkuff, Frank Britton, Louis E. Davis in The Freshest Snow Whyte at Imagination Stage (Photo: Margot Schulman)

The dancing and movement to the raps shine. They are sleek, quick, and sharp, even when done by the alien twins, who wibble and wobble constantly as if they have no control over their limbs, which provides lots of laughs for the kiddos. I heard one little girl after the show cutely refer to K Rock and Pop Lock as “the bears.” Whatever they are (or are seen to be), they are a funny duo amusingly brought to life by Davis and Robinson. Britton too, as the robot 3Pac, uses his body to make interesting movements both when dancing or even just short-circuiting. His dry droid provides some fun levity to the show, as does Mira, who gives the adults attending some laughs. He uses rap lyrics as a part of conversations. See if you can catch them all.

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Want to go?
The Freshest Snow Whyte

closes March 18, 2017
Details and tickets
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Carkuff’s Snow Whyte has a lot of attitude and McCullough hits his groove half way through, when he starts to show up on Palladium in ridiculous costumes.

Stylistically, Whyte kinda looks like a cheesy sci-fi film—a la Tron—or those school picture backdrops from the 90s. The ones with laser light beams crisscrossing behind smiling kids. That’s basically the set here, except with lots of black and white, including in the costumes and props, except for light-saber-esque rods used in a variety of ways. It’s simple and very angular, with a screen where the murals (and other projections) appear. The music, too, is pared down to beats with simple hooks and lyrics that are interesting, not terribly catchy, yet accessible to children with easily understandable tenets—fair and unfair.

“I forbid you to try to be the freshest at what I do,” Kanye raps to Snow Whyte when he confronts her over her talent as an artist.

Even though I loved how the show retired the gendered (and sexist) premise it was originally built on and eliminated the longstanding premise that females only have one virtue, beauty, I was only mildly amused.

But my 8-year-old date loved Snow Whyte. She found it funny and pointed out to her mom that it’s was Snow Whyte with a “Y,” not an “I,” which is what they tell you in the opening number. So, what do I know? She’s the audience here and judging from all the buzzy kids afterwards, this is a hit where it should be a hit.

Though it lacked something for adults and felt a little clunky and contrived at times, The Freshest Snow Whyte’s message is, in itself, refreshing and inspiring. That it also married hip hop, fairytales, sci-fi, and technology to get there is a bonus that can only get better and better.

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The Freshest Snow Whyte . Written and Directed by Psalmayene 24. Music by Nick “tha 1da” Hernandez. Featuring Frank Britton, Katy Carkuff, Louis Davis, Jonathan Feuer, Calvin McCullough, and Taylor Robinson. Production: Nick “tha 1da” Hernandez, Composer/Music Director; Tony Thomas II, Choreographer; Richard Ouellette, Scenic Designer; Jeanette Christensen, Costume Designer; Dylan Uremovich, Lighting Designer; Thomas Sowers, Sound Designer; Tewodross “Teo” Melchishua Williams, Projection Designer; Octayvia Morton, Assistant Director. Jessica Skelton, Stage Manager. Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale

Kelly McCorkendale About Kelly McCorkendale

Kelly McCorkendale is a dog-lover, avid quilter, and occassional creative writer who loves the color orange and boycotts cable (except “Game of Thrones” because, well, what if winter is coming!?). After college, she realized poets weren’t in demand, so she shipped off to Madagascar with Peace Corps. Since then, she’s found a niche working on health systems in Africa but has a long-list of life tasks yet to be fulfilled–such as perform blackmail, learn a trade, and become a competitive eater. She has an MA in International Education, believes rice is the elixir of life, and, in high school, won the best supporting actress honor for the state of Missouri. She may also recite poetry (her first love) when imbibing in alcohol.

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