'Snow White' adapted by Greg Banks
Now playing on the Ada Slaight Stage at Toronto's Young People's Theatre
Dahlia Katz. Ken Hall and Amanda Cordner
This adaptation of ‘Snow White’ is a charming holiday gift to young people in your life and introduces them to the wonder of the theatre.
This adaptation of ‘Snow White’ is so charming in its unique adaptation. It’s being presented as the true story of what really happened to the central character. The online programme and advertising recommend the production for everyone from the ages of 6 – 106.
And what makes it uniquely charming and different? For one, this ‘Snow White’ is performed by two actors who will play all the characters including the wicked Queen and the dwarfs. Four actors will rotate performances. At this performance, Amanda Cordner played Snow White while Ken Hall played (Four) including all the dwarfs. Young People’s Theatre Artistic Director Herbie Barnes who welcomed us on opening night will play Four in the other cast along with JD Leslie as Snow White. Barnes’s suggestion – we should return to see the other cast.
The other difference that is first noticeable? The production does not adhere to the traditional playing of Snow White. Cordner and Lesley are BIPOC performers. More about Cordner’s work shortly.
What is fascinating about this adaptation first is the pop-up storybook motif director Aurora Browne incorporated into her vision for the piece. Brandon Kleiman’s pretty set design of healthy-looking trees, a suggestion of a leafy meadow and a tree stump almost appear three-dimensional from my seat in the house. There looked to be fruit attached to some of the branches of the trees. Siobhán Sleath’s tepid lighting design at the pre-show setting faintly suggests the coolness of the forest. Raha Javanar’s ear-pleasing musical interlude at the pre-show setting kept repeating as the audience entered. This helped to focus my attention on what was about to transpire within this forest.
Interestingly and mercifully, Greg Banks’ adaptation is not going to be another Disneyfied version of the story.
Not at all.
With Disney’s virginal damsel in distress, his ‘Snow White’ is delicate as fine bone china. One wrong move and the object shatters into pieces with no hope of being put back together. There appears to be this sense of continued dread and fear in the film version which reflects the suspense and intensity that Snow White could be destroyed or shattered at any given moment.
I didn’t find that sense of dread and fear in Banks’s adaptation.
Instead, his ‘Snow White’ utilizes physical comedy bits of shtick to tell the story and confront the issues surrounding it in a modern vernacular manner that meets them head-on. Snow This directness appeals to the twenty-first-century young person. Amanda Cordner is not the submissive and passively meek-sounding damsel from the Disney film. There are some suggestions of violent moments that occur in the forest, but they are neatly countered with bits of comic physical shtick.
Here, Cordner sometimes speaks in what I call the street-smart sense. For example, throughout my 33-year career as an educator, I can recall many students of diverse backgrounds telling “‘You know what I’m sayin’” if they were explaining something to me. Cordner soundly incorporates this street-smart vernacular quite a bit throughout her performance which soundly adds to this new understanding of ‘Snow White’ that she is a survivor, especially after she is forced out of her home by her stepmother the wicked queen.
Ken Hall appropriately and soundly plays off Cordner’s realistic street-smart sense in his roles of the seven dwarfs. I’ll admit I was puzzled as to why he is called Four since we all know the dwarves have their own names. Well, I’m surmising, at least for me, numbers as names remove any form of connection we can make to that person. Instead, numbers indicate specificity, and we can then be objective regarding numbers instead of feeling subjective.
For Hall, then, his task is to show us the emotions and thoughts of his six comrades which he successfully accomplishes in spades.
What I found quite interesting is Snow White’s decision not to go off with her Prince Charming who awakens her with a kiss. The physical bit of shtick between Cordner and Hall is well worth the wait. Instead, Cordner’s Snow White realizes the importance of staying with the dwarfs as she recognizes how much they have cared for her. I’ve been having conversations recently with others regarding ‘relationship-building’.
Greg Banks’ adaptation recognizes the importance of relationship building in the twenty-first century.
Final Comments: Some grand changes at Young People’s Theatre in the physical space of the lobby and the main theatre itself.
Nothing has changed though regarding the power and influence of the theatre on young people. ‘Snow White’ attests the story can be adapted to reflect current and updated issues.
Introduce the young person in your life this Christmas and holiday season with ‘Snow White’.
Running Time: approximately 85 minutes with no intermission.
‘Snow White’ runs until January 7, 2023, on the Ada Slaight Stage at Young People’s Theatre, 165 Front Street East, Toronto. For tickets call the Box Office (416)-866-2222 or visit youngpeoplestheatre.org for more information.
Originally commissioned and produced by Children’s Theatre Company
Adapted by Greg Banks
Directed by Aurora Browne
Music Composed by Victor Zupanc
Set Designer: Brandon Kleiman
Costume Designer: Laura Gardner
Lighting Designer: Siobhán Sleath
Sound Designer: Emily Porter
Music Director: Raha Javanfar
Stage Manager: Katerina Sokyrko
The Cast: Herbie Barnes, Amanda Cordner, Ken Hall, JD Leslie (Cast members rotate daily)