Theatre Review: Snow White Winter Family Musical

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 8th July 2014.

Many years ago, whilst living in the UK, I had the pleasure of performing in a pantomime. Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood featured all of the hallmarks of this classic theatrical format: a “dame” (a man in drag); cheesy pop songs; a spooky forest (he’s behind you!); sweets being thrown to the audience; a moustache twirling villain; and audience participation (booing and hissing). It was great fun and the audience lapped it up.

Unfortunately, pantomime is not a theatrical staple in Australia. We’re trained to sit in our seats and behave. Luckily for Sydney audiences, this hasn’t stopped Bonnie Lythgoe (UK based producer and director, and former judge on So You Think You Can Dance Australia) from bringing Snow White Winter Family Musical to the State Theatre, just in time for the school holidays.

Pantomimes classically feature a celebrity cast hamming it up and Lythgoe has managed to snag one of the big guns of Australian stage and screen comedy in Magda Szubanski, as the dastardly Queen Grismelda. Also starring are Jimmy Rees (TV’s Giggle and Hoot), Peter Everett (Ready Steady Cook), Andrew Cutcliffe (Underbelly: RAZOR) and US based Aussie musical theatre star Josh Adamson.

For the titular role, Lythgoe ran a country wide talent search in a non-specific shopping centre chain and unearthed Erin Clare, a blue eyed brunette whose looks just scream Snow White. Oh, she can sing and dance too.

Lythgoe has also somehow managed to convince Sir Cliff Richard (the ultimate real life Peter Pan) and radio shock jock Kyle Sandilands to prerecord their parts as the split personalities of the magic mirror.

Rounding out the cast are two troupes of way too talented kiddies who alternate performances as the dancing ensemble and then don some rather creepy heads to portray the seven dwarves.

I was accompanied by two friends who were reasonably unfamiliar with panto, but egged on by Rees’ court jester Muddles, it didn’t take long for them (and the whole audience) to adapt to the concept of audience participation. We hissed the villain. We cheered for the handsome prince. We groaned at the opening chords of the obligatory One Direction songs. I booed at Kyle Sandilands (his onscreen cameo is further proof to my theory that he isn’t actually human).

The cast is uniformly fantastic with Rees particularly amusing (minus his owl) and Szubanski able to make a fluffed line into a memorable opportunity for hilarity. Everett was appropriately camp and new discovery Erin Clare is as beautiful as she is talented (but should stay away from poisoned apples to avoid typecasting and endless slumber).

Despite a rather clunky script, some underwritten characters and a flat second act, I had a great time. Worth the entry price alone is the best onstage flying illusion I have every seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Forget Mary Poppins, this is the real thing.

Let’s hope Snow White Winter Family Musical is a hit so Lythgow can make her panto an annual highlight on the rather ho-hum Sydney theatrical calendar. Next time, I’m going to take the kids.

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Cinematic Showdown: Snow White vs Snow White

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7th February 2012.

Every few years in Hollywood, two very similar motion pictures are produced and go head to head at the box office. This seems to occur entirely by accident. These projects are greenlit by their respective production companies and developed without any knowledge of each other until it is too late. Whoops. Too much money has been spent to cancel the project and it then becomes a matter of marketing and star power to determine who outmuscles who at the box office.

This year will witness the showdown of the “fairest of them all.” That’s right, it’s Snow White versus Snow White. But before we examine the tale of the tape, let’s have a look at some other cinematic similarity showdowns.

In 1991, we had the clash of the green tights. The low budget Robin Hood, a fairly straight adaption of the legend starring Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman, was completely annihilated by Kevin Coster’s American accent and lack of moustache. Released two months later, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves also starred Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater and Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham (pretty much reprising his Hans Gruber character from Die Hard). It grossed $390 million worldwide and marks the moment that I realised I have an allergy to Bryan Adams. Both films make for arduous viewing but at least Patrick Bergin bothered to grow a moustache so I’ll take the underdog as my pick.

A few years later, we had volcanorama-rama. February 1997 saw the release of Dante’s Peak, starring new James Bond at the time Pierce Brosnan and a no longer Terminator 2 buff Linda Hamilton. It grossed $178 million worldwide. In June the same year, Los Angeles was decimated in the imaginatively titled Volcano. With star power provided by Tommy Lee Jones and a pre-gay controversy Anne Heche, the film grossed $122 million. Both movies have cliché ridden scripts and feature ridiculousness such as vehicles miraculously driving through molten lava so I’ll call it a draw.

A year later, just as the world was recovering from the volcano disaster, namely Tommy Lee Jones’ poor attempt to play the action hero, the earth came under attack from not one, but two, asteroids.

Deep Impact saw a planet led by US President Morgan Freeman under attack. To ensure that the human race survives, only eight thousand people can be chosen to live underground. With an ensemble cast including Elijah Wood and Robert Duvall, Deep Impact is more drama than disaster flick and grossed a respectable $180 million.

Two months later, the world was threatened again, but this time we had Bruce Willis to save the day. Armageddon also stars Ben Affleck and Billy Bob Thornton as members of a drilling team who are dispatched to the asteroid to blow it up from the inside, as you do. Despite the silly storyline, an awful Aerosmith theme song and a misleading title (hint: the film has a happy ending), Armageddon trounced its rival with a box office take of $250 million.

Both asteroid flicks are guilty pleasures but I’ll take the film with more pathos and less Willis.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s now time to predict who will win the battle of the Snow Whites.

In the red corner we have Mirror Mirror. Starring Lily Collins (daughter of Phil “Su-Su-Sussudio” Collins) as Snow White and Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, this is being marketed as a family friendly action comedy.

In the blue corner, we have Snow White and the Huntsmen. A much different take on the fairytale, the trailer and poster features the ever wooden Kristen Stewart as an armour clad warrior Snow White. Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth will play the titular huntsman assigned to murder Snow White in the woods but ends up training her to defeat the evil queen, played by Charlize Theron.

Despite my aversion to Kristen Stewart, Snow White and the Huntsmen looks like the more interesting picture, however, I predict the family friendly Mirror Mirror will win at the box office. Let the battle begin!

Published in: on February 7, 2012 at 07:23  Leave a Comment  
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