Review: ‘Snow White’ at Encore Stage & Studio

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Encore Stage & Studio presents the beloved childhood tale Snow White, a musical adaption by Tim Kelly, with music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur. A company who produces shows “by kids, for kids,” Encore prides itself on encouraging vital life skills through the theater arts. Says Executive Director Sara Duke, “They rely on one another to turn on the stage lights, act the parts, move the scenery, and bring joy to the audience. Before they know it, they’ve learned cooperation, dedication, responsibility, and more.” By involving young people in every facet of a live theater company (onstage, backstage, in workshops and yes, in the audience!), Encore Stage & Studio proves itself time and again to be a worthy contender in the theater world.

Snow White (Zoe Rocchio) is greeted with an apple from the Crone (Gabrielle Schaubach). Photo by Larry McClemons.
Snow White (Zoe Rocchio) is greeted with an apple from the Crone (Gabrielle Schaubach). Photo by Larry McClemons.

The children far outnumber the adult staff; Production Director and Choreographer Sarah Conrad must manage a sizeable cast of twenty-two eager young students alongside Musical Director Galina Tarasova, while Technical Director and Set Designer Kristen Jepperson handles behind-the-scenes elements with a crew of nine young members. Large set pieces are wheeled on and offstage throughout the production, dressed by Marji Jepperson. My favorite is the seven dwarves’ cottage; once rundown and neglected , with a lopsided roof and dirty clothes hung hither and thither, then later turned pristine and tidy with Snow White’s help.

Creative shadow work  makes for a vast forest, and Master Electrician Gary Hauptman and Sound Engineer Dew Moberly work together to give the stage a magical atmosphere, best seen in the witch’s loud, colorful transformations. The costumes by Debra Leonard have a distinctly homemade look about them and, while simple, are effective. I particularly enjoyed a glittery hooded gown worn by a walking mirror; a clever idea made seemingly effortless.

The Queen (Nadya Steare) asks the Magic Mirror (Ella McHugh) who is the fairest of them all. Photo by Larry McClemons.
The Queen (Nadya Steare) asks the Magic Mirror (Ella McHugh) who is the fairest of them all. Photo by Larry McClemons.

Snow White (Zoe Rocchio) is made to while away her days doing chores for her stepmother the Queen (Nadya Steare.) Friendly and sweet, Snow White doesn’t seem to mind hard work, and spreads cheer wherever she goes. When her childhood friend the Prince  (James Brady) comes to visit, they sing a song called “I Like Your Style,” reminiscing on their fond memories and making plans for the future. However, when the Queen notices the attention that Snow White is receiving, she grows anxious and consults her Walking, Talking Mirror (Ella McHugh), who confirms the Queen’s greatest fear: Snow White has grown into her own beauty, and is now fairer than the Queen herself.

And so the Queen entrusts the Huntsman (Caroline Antonipillai) to kill Snow White in the deep woods. When he cannot bring himself to do it, Snow White must flee. In a fearful song, she sings “What Now? Where Now?” before meeting a fox named Vixen, played by Belle Perkins. Perkins shows a lot of talent as Vixen, using graceful ballet movements to lead Snow White to the cottage of the seven dwarves, who are busy singing about what they do best; a song called “Work, Work, Work.” The dwarves are, in my opinion, the best part of the show, with comedic choreography and funny dialogue that flows naturally. Luke Jackins is particularly great as their steadfast leader Sarge, and Aidan Pritchard gets a lot of laughs from the audience with his delayed reactions as Slowpoke. They become a happy little family…but away in the kingdom, the angry Queen is plotting her next move.

While one must remember that these actors are young and growing into their craft, the performances are overall impressive. Nadya Steare had the audience in stitches with her well-honed evil cackle, and her song “Magic Spell” proved to be the most popular number of the night.

Gabrielle Schaubach was expressive and bright as the deceptive Old Crone, and Zoe Rocchio held her own as a solid Snow White. I admire Encore Stage & Studio for their role in childhood development, which is easily seen in the onstage results. Says Sara Duke; “We believe that participating in live theatre builds problem-solving skills, teamwork, creativity, literacy, and self-confidence.” This is highly apparent, and one of the key factors is experiencing it in the audience.

The seven dwarves welcomes Snow White! Photo by Aileen Pangan.
The seven dwarves welcomes Snow White! Photo by Aileen Pangan.

Take your kids to see their peers onstage in Encore Stage & Studio’s entertaining production of Snow White, and watch them get inspired!

Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

Encore SnowWhite DCMTA

Snow White plays through January 17, 2016 at Encore Stage and Studio–125 South Old Glebe Road Arlington, VA. For tickets, call (703) 548-1154, or purchase them online.

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