Volume 80, Number 50 | May 12 - 18, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Youth

Snow White and the evil Queen, above, and with dwarves, below, in the New Acting Company’s production of “Snow White.”

A ‘Snow White’ you’ve never seen before at C.A.S.

By Tim Lalumia

A gem of an original stage production, “Snow White,” now playing through this weekend at the Children’s Aid Society on Sullivan St., features stellar production, acting, staging, design and strangely integrated rock/retro music to fantastic effect, all driven by a very original take on story, plot and characters. Presented by the New Acting Company, this show exemplifies what “children’s theater” can be.

From the prancing fashion designer channeling Freddie Mercury (Michael Titone), a living, breathing “child mirror,” and a Prince (Fergus Scully) so charming the term no longer serves the character and is thus renamed a more appropriate and greater “Valentine,” this show hits the high notes, as well as the important message/morals without a single misstep.

With the demise of this location at hand, due to the Children’s Aid Society’s money-grubbing intention to sell all its current properties in Greenwich Village, the cast and crew (very clever set design by Carl Tallent) steps up to the plate and knocks the cover off this ball.

If the kids would rather play video games, too bad, just buy your tickets and go. Children’s theater simply does not get better than this. Other shows simply fall apart before the first double entendre is blabbed out to the bored little ones.

Making something brand new after years of stagnant “White” applications, director/producer/company creator and founder Stephen Michael Rondell has taken a very old and worn-out children’s fairy tale, and given us a very intelligent production to savor. He has outdone himself this time. After having cranked out award-winning children’s theater for years, he has pushed the bar way into the rafters.

Led by a crisply paced, slyly witty and multiage group-targeted script, adapted by Kathy Keane, the New Acting Company presents a far more entertaining experience than Broadway or Hollywood is usually currently able to muster.  

In this world, all the clichés have been either turned inside out or used as a dartboard for skewering. The best way to describe the overall changes and very original twists, both in story and characters, is to push the typical “Snow White” through the looking glass and have it come out with a fresh coat of fairy dust, a rock-inspired soundtrack (though it is not a musical) and land soundly, doing back flips into Emerald City.

Pop references abound, mixed with continuous belly laughs, alternating seamlessly in pace and severity from “kid” moments to “adult” ones.

Specifically highlighting some of the performances of this winning cast does a disservice to the overall brilliance of the casting and performances. That said, droll and sympathetic young Sophie Shuster as the Mirror is terrific. The role has been expanded into so much more, which will not be revealed here, but suffice it to say, this gal is one to watch.

Synge Mahar, previously Captain Hook in this company’s high-flying “Peter Pan,” in multiple roles dominates every hilarious moment in which she is involved. Mahar swings from a bizarre characterization of Martha Stewart to a flighty lady in waiting, as well as the “actress” who “plays” the first doomed queen, and then finally to one of the kindly dwarves who befriends our title character. It’s as Dopey, now renamed Blitzen, where she brings a very funny and tilted approach to a deep sadness and anxiety-ridden character.

Josie Pelham deftly combines a classic embodiment of all our inherited expectations of Snow White, with a kooky confusion that guides the audience through this totally new approach to the tale. Credit the playwright as well as the director for having the nerve to stray so far from the original, yet being smart enough to save just enough of it to keep the audience, young and old, on track.

Moe Rosen in multiple roles, ranging from Cranky (Grumpy) to the castle guard played in a Pythonesque/Bill Murray’s Carl from “Caddyshack” combo, is a morphing actor of obvious skill and versatility. As the pitch-perfect evil queen, Tanya Debra wins the audience in her demonic portrayal, holding down the fort as a far meaner version than even Disney’s, her characterization provides the pure darkness needed to anchor all the crazy, twisting and refreshingly silly new changes.

If the kids would rather play video games, too bad, just buy your tickets and go. Children’s theater simply does not get better than this. Most often, due to the feeble attempts at targeting the dual target audience, other shows simply fall apart before the first double entendre is blabbed out to the bored little ones. There was no whispering, fidgeting or watch-checking observed, which underscores the greatness of this production from beginning to end, despite almost two hours running time.

Though this company’s previous productions have been very successful and always original in design and presentation, this version of “Snow White” has set the bar for the next show extremely high. Fear not, the consummate showman that Stephen Michael Rondell has become over the years, will not consider the challenge without amassing his familiar troops and then pushing the potential and the limitations as far as they can be stretched. Guts are what makes great shows and this group has them in spades, no matter where it might be located in the future beyond next May 2012.

“Snow White,” written by Kathy Keane, and directed by Stephen Michael Rondell for the New Acting Company. Fri. at 7 p.m., Sat. at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sun. at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., at Children’s Aid Society, 219 Sullivan St., between Bleecker and W. Third Sts. Tickets are $18 online at Smarttix or $20 (cash) at the door. No infants.

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