Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako and Conner Neddersen in SCT's 2020 production of "Snow White." Photo by Angela Sterling.
It’s hard to find a more problematic fairy tale than the Grimm brothers’ 1812 story of Snow White. The original story and its more widely known Disney adaptation are so blatantly racist, sexist, ableist and ageist that my partner and I made the decision long ago that we wouldn’t show the movie in our home.
So when I saw that Seattle Children’s Theatre planned to tackle the tale in a way that required the audience to “forget everything you thought you knew about Snow White,” my interest was piqued.
SCT's version of “Snow White,” written by Greg Banks, turns this old fairy tale completely on its head. The show transforms the original story in a number of important ways, most notably casting a black actor to play the “fair” princess. I highly recommend taking your family to see this long overdue and modern update of “Snow White,” on stage through Sunday, March 15.
The bottom line
Why take the kids to see the show? First off, it’s funny. Like, really funny. I took my three kids, ages 12, 8 and 7, and they were busting up throughout the entire play. On the day we went, there were several scenes that had both kids and adults laughing heartily.
The hilarity is in large part due to actor Conner Neddersen, who plays all seven(!) dwarfs, sometimes simultaneously. Though hard to imagine, trust me, his performance is masterful.
In all, there are only two actors, Neddersen and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako, who play every role in “Snow White.” That’s because Banks’ adaptation intentionally leaves much to the audience members' imagination.
For starters, the set is simple, with just a small, open-concept cottage, a dining table and large skeletal trees. Props and costume changes are minimal, too. Each actor changes roles simply by adding or subtracting items from his or her wardrobe.
Two characters, Snow White and Dwarf #4, tell the entire story. (In this version, none of the dwarfs have names.) Both actors switch off playing each character at various points, pausing to talk to one another and the audience throughout. Using this approach, the two actors bring the audience into each character's reflections as the story unfolds live on stage.
The result is a retelling that asks hard questions, explores dark themes, and challenges some of the foregone conclusions and widely held assumptions reinforced by the original tale. For example, in this version, viewers are reminded that the huntsman was poor, Snow White was just a child and the prince who comes to her “rescue” is a stranger to her. How does this change the audience members’ perspective on each of these characters and their actions?
What parents should know
If you’ve got a wide age range among your kids, this is a rare show that appeals to all ages. My two elementary-age kids and my tween all enjoyed it.
The storyline is easy to follow, and there’s nothing particularly scary in the show. More complex themes are explored in ways young kids can grasp (or not). And though I wouldn’t normally take my 12-year-old to a play that on its face seems like it’s for a younger audience, as a drama kid, she’d heard the hype that the acting in the show was worth watching. It lived up to that hype and was entertaining for all four of us.
The show has no intermission, but at an hour and a half in length, if your kid can sit through a movie in the theater, they can sit through this show.
If you go…
When: “Snow White” is on stage now through March 15, 2020.
Where: Seattle Children's Theatre is located at 201 Thomas St., Seattle, on the west side of Seattle Center. Look out for closed streets and restricted parking due to Key Arena construction.
Tickets: $15–$45; buy tickets online or at the box office.
Pricing update: New this season, seating is reserved by price tiers rather than general admission: premium ($40 child, $45 adult), standard ($30 child, $35 adult) and value ($15 child, $20 adult). Select “value” from the dropdown menu on the ticket page to find the cheaper tickets. There are a limited number available for each performance.
Age recommendation: SCT recommends this show for ages 5 and older.
Run time: One hour and 30 minutes, with no intermission.
Show resources: SCT’s audience guide provides a detailed synopsis of the play, as well as “Snow White” discussion ideas and games for kids.