Good and evil play tug-of-war throughout the story of Snow White, Ensemble Theatre’s new holiday fairytale musical. As the leading lady, energetic Sara Kenny brings a lot of spunk but not enough soul to her role. David Kisor and Joe McDonough’s eighth collaboration (since 1997) is a fanciful retelling of the story of a princess whose beauty almost leads to her demise. In this version, however, it’s “Auntie Queen” (Deb G. Girdler), her guardian, who’s out to get her.
I wish the script were clearer about why the queen is jealous of her niece. It’s also unclear why the implacable Mirror (Kate Wilford) provides several means to rub out the guileless, playful Snow White. Girdler, who excels in wickedness, also poses as Snow White’s sweet mother and grandmother, a device that will confuse some children (and maybe adults).
The quick conversion of her incompetent henchmen, Doom and Gloom (Michael G. Bath and Buz Davis), to assist squeaky-clean Sebastian (Michael Carr) is equally implausible. The incognito prince dazzles everyone by spinning around in flashes of light. He’s a good guy who strives to do the right thing, but there’s not a flicker of romance between him and Snow White until the final moment.
The most interesting and amusing characters are seven “halflings,” former servants transformed into half-human, half-animal forest residents. Will Selnick, as a pedantic skunk, and Annie Fitzpatrick, an inarticulate turkey, stand out, but with the others (Lisa DeRoberts, Jared D. Doren, Ken Early, Sara Mackie) they are a fine vocal ensemble for several musical numbers, especially “When Apples Were Red.”
With a little more seasoning, this new “spin” on Snow White could be another treat for holiday theatergoers. Right now it needs to be warmed up — the falling snow chills the humor a bit too much.
SNOW WHITE, presented by Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, continues through Dec. 31. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.