The Puppet Company has energized the old fairy tale with a fresh original script, solid story-telling, great media projections, and the most adorable prince and princess imaginable.
The multi-talented Eric Brooks opens the show as the Prince, trying to persuade his horse to move forward, but the animal balks sensing danger ahead, a great set-up for the rest of the story. Next in the spotlight is the gorgeously cloaked Red Rose Queen with her back to the audience, peering into her ever-changing mirror asking the infamous who’s-the-fairest question. No sooner does she see the profile of the fair maiden in the mirror than she starts plotting her demise.
In an interesting twist, the small fellow that she refers to as her huntsman — he’s more like a servant– is pretty busy trying to keep from being turned into a frog or worse from the Queen’s evil magic. When he rushes to warn Snow White of imminent danger, the other dwarfs enter and are introduced to her one by one, each with a special gift or talent whether it’s penetrating vision able to see through rocks, extraordinary hearing, superhuman strength, speed, etc. One of the brothers is extra clumsy and all he can do is trip and fall—would you believe that’s the special power that eventually saves Snow White from certain death? What better way to reinforce that we all have gifts, even when we don’t know it.
The clever dialog in this innovative adaptation by playwright, puppet designer animator and performer Christopher Piper has an upbeat swing that feels comfortable and effective. When one of the dwarfs who has just returned from the butcher makes an elaborate deal of giving a small wrapped package to Snow White, he quickly takes it back “for safe keeping.” You know it’s a ruse since he’s just promised the Queen that he would bring back Snow White’s heart to prove that she was dead, so something yucky is obviously in the package, prompting one of the brothers to react—“Now, that’s just gross!”
This production is one of the first that combines actors, rod puppets, and animated projections, all together in the same scene, with direction, set and costume design by Allen Stevens, who also performs. The production is filled with fun and charm thanks to the careful rendering of the rod puppets, but also through their effective interaction with the actors. The ubiquitous “mirror on the wall,” a large round circle mounted prominently on the stage, provides a glimpse of off-stage action, whether it’s the brothers toiling in the mine listening for danger, or a profile of Snow White having tea with the Prince.
Relative new comer Nora Achrati is enchanting as Snow White with sweet mannerisms befitting the most beloved Princess in the land, fluttering along in a gorgeous costume created by MayField Piper. As Snow White, Achrati holds court as the center of attraction with the dwarfs like it’s the most natural thing in the world, smiling and listening carefully and attentively to each one. She has a peaceful loving spirit, mindful of the lurking danger while still exuding a loving and welcoming approach to all that life has to offer, even if it’s a poisoned apple from the jealous Red Queen. The metamorphosis of the Queen turning into a snarling beat-up old witch right before our eyes is nicely done, and the heartbreak of the dwarfs is achingly real when they see a presumably dead Snow White stretched out before them.
No spoiler alert is needed to know that all ends well for Snow White, the Prince, the horse and the little people. The story told through generations speaks for itself, and thanks to the ingenuity and creativity of the Puppet Company, its got a fresh new spin with a clever blend of fantasy and reality, a couple of catchy tunes (again, thanks to Eric Brooks), and is loads of fun for first timers and veterans alike.
Snow White and the 7 Dwarves
A Grimm’s Fairy Tale
Produced by The Puppet Company
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
Running time: 40 minutes with no intermission