Oh yes, the seven dwarfs. I remember them from the Disney movie. Let’s see, there’s Dopey, Sleepy, Grumpy – wait, don’t tell me – Sleazy, Speedy, Romney, and Doc. Or something like that, it has been a while since I’ve seen the movie.
Actually, in the current production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” down at the Puppet Co. in Glen Echo, the names of our seven “vertically challenged” heroes are not the same as in the Disney version. In fact, we do not learn their names until the very end of the show. This is a world where magic rules, and someone’s name can prove the greatest magic talisman of all.
The basic outline of the story remains the same. A vain Rose Queen learns that she is no longer the “fairest of them all” and that title now goes to Snow White. The Queen immediately plans her revenge, and orders her henchmen to do her dirty work. How Snow White escapes the schemes of the evil Queen, with the help of a Prince Charming and seven small men living in the woods, forms the bulk of the tale.
As with so many of these fairy tales, there are many versions of this story, and the Puppet Co incorporates some intriguing variations to the familiar plot. Our seven small friends are not strangers in the woods but are the henchmen for the Rose Queen, ever obedient because the Queen constantly threatens to turn her black magic spells on them. Typical of so many Grimm fairy tales, these mysterious men each have a special gift – one has big ears and can hear a pin drop miles away, while another is incredibly fast and another has great strength.
Well, there is one that seems to have no special gifts and comes off as rather clumsy too. Another familiar trope of these types of stories, he’s the one you need to follow as the story progresses.
The Puppet Co production is a fascinating blend of live actors and puppetry. The regular sized humans are all played by live actors – Molly MacKenzie as a charming Snow White and Mason O’Sullivan as her devoted Prince. In addition there is the evil Queen, played by several actors. In one of the most magical moments of the show, the Rose Queen vanishes before our eyes as she changes into the old peddler woman with her delicious basket of apples.
The dwarves, on the other hand, are all puppets, but of several varieties. At times they are typical rod puppets with detailed features and movement. Other times, such as when they are working in the mines, they are animation/shadow puppets projected onto a large circular screen in the middle of the stage. That circular screen establishes scene changes swiftly. It also serves as the most memorable effect in the entire show – an animated ever shifting magic mirror that answers the Rose Queen’s vain questions.
“Snow White” is the newest addition to the Puppet Co repertory, and I believe this is only the second time it has been mounted. As such, it still has a few rough edges to it here and there, but it is totally charming and quite funny in places. This tale is a perennial favorite, as seen by two new live action movie versions this year alone. In its swiftly paced 40 minutes, the Puppet Co production is both charmingly familiar and like our seven little friends, full of unexpected surprises along the way.
By David Cannon
Mocovox Entertainment Critic