“This show is not a serious show. It’s funny and at times silly. So we want to hear you laugh a lot…”
So announces director Peter Buckley at the start of his pantomime Snow White: The Video. Presented by the Phnom Penh Players amateur troupe, the production opens tonight and will run until Saturday evening at Chaktomuk Theater.
For the most part, Buckley succeeds in his goal, as he fills his scenes with song and dance routines part practiced, part lip-synched, and part spontaneous.
A upside-down version of the fairy tale and set in the mythical kingdom of “Sylvania” (a thinly disguised Phnom Penh), the play goes on a high-speed drive (literally so in one memorable motorcycle-taxi chase scene), with a boisterous enthusiasm that makes up for the long intervals while the crew changes the slightly unwieldy set.
A grouchy couch potato (Mike Bicker) settles down in his armchair to spend a solitary Christmas watching a video of Snow White. But as he becomes wrapped in the plot in more ways than one, it also becomes clear the play casts its limelight as much on the engaging supporting players as on Snow White (Beth Deutsch) and Prince Charming (Beth Moorthy).
While a saccharine Snow White, with a duo of simpering maids in tow, pines—complete with a mobile phone duet fantasy—after her boyish and slightly egotistical Prince Charming, her stepmother, the evil Queen Maligna (Shannia Spillaine), dominates the stage. Appropriately a majestic and malevolent prima donna in her purple flowing gown, Queen Maligna schemes with her magic hand-mirror for Snow White’s death so she can have Prince Charming (and his kingdom) all to herself.
Countering this presence, Snow White’s allies rally to the young princess’ side: a self-styled “female James Bond” fairy with a dysfunctional wand, a diminutive major wanting to strike it rich establishing an NGO, Sylvania’s street children, one huge water buffalo…
In the end, with all its giddiness, the play maintains a fine satirical edge and many amusing asides.
And yes, Snow White does escape the clutches of Queen Maligna, revive and regain her prince—but with a surprise twist quite different from the traditional version.