McDaniel College's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" brings a twist of British-style comedy to the classic fairytale at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18, and at 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19. All performances are at McDaniel's WMC Alumni Hall, at 2 College Hill in Westminster.
The show is adapted and directed by McDaniel College theater arts professor Ira Domser.
The production is a pantomime — panto for short — a type of theater production as popular in England and other English-speaking countries as "A Christmas Carol" is in the United States, Domser said.
"You'll have trouble finding 'A Christmas Carol' in England but you'll find pantos," he said.
While panto stories are not focused on the Christmas holiday, they are prolific in Britain during winter. Domser said some panto companies perform multiple shows each day and schools close so children can attend.
The shows are a tradition across the pond, where children attend with their parents and grandparents, then later in life take their own children and grandchildren, he said.
Unlike productions of fairy tales that are written specifically for children's audiences, pantos use lavish music and costumes, dancing and a side of slapstick, plus jokes only the adults will get, Domser said.
The shows are "for children but they have jokes that go over their heads just for adults — innuendo is doubly funny because the kids won't get it," Domser said.
"The way I describe a panto is it's a fairytale on steroids. It's the story of Snow White with Donald Trump jokes thrown in [along with] Abba's 'Dancing Queen,' " stage manager Mariah Ligas said.
Snow White is played by Megan Smith, a sophomore from Federalsburg. This is her first major role and her first panto.
It can be compared to Monty Python, Smith said, in that it is "very witty [and] a little sarcastic."
"It's very different, not just different in the style of the show but in the humor as opposed to a regular comedy," Smith said.
One panto tradition is cross-dressing, Domser said. There is always a panto dame who is usually played by an older, sometimes heavy-set man.
"There's this fun the dame has because he's a man and he can make jokes about having difficulty understanding women," he said.
Another tradition is that the plot is not the point. The plot of "Snow White" is well known, Domser said, but pantos take that familiar story and "embellish it with lots of jokes, lots of improvising, and games that the audience plays" with the cast.
"Candy is thrown. It's really fun ... it's very silly," Bowen said.
Bowen said the panto version of Prince Charming he plays "has [a] little-kid kind of ignorance. He's very goofy." He said his Prince Charming is "kind of dumb" but in an optimistic way; he is a very happy character.
"This is the first panto I've ever been in. It's a lot more comedic-timing based. I have a lot of fun with the role," he said.
Samantha Arana, a senior from Silver Spring, plays Doc, one of the dwarfs. Arana said one of the considerations in staging a panto is to choose what will be most entertaining to the audience.
"My favorite part about working with Ira, and specifically in a panto setting, is he's very open to new ideas," Arana said. "Sometimes we'll even make a mistake and say, 'hey, that's funny' and keep it,' " she said.
Ligas, a senior from Aldie, Virginia, approaches the show differently from the actors. Stage managing "Snow White" is more than a typical production for her — it's also her senior capstone project. Ligas said this is the biggest project for which she has been stage manager.
"When I was a freshman I stage-managed in a contemporary piece about [Spanish painter Francisco] Goya ... It had pyrotechnics and flying," Ligas said. "'Snow White' also has flying [but] no pyrotech, thankfully."
Arana said the panto is "a good time to get distracted from the stress and busyness of life."
McDaniel's production has several dance numbers, a lot of singing and comic routines, Domser said. It also offers a lot of improvisation between the cast and the audience, especially with the children, he said.
If you see the production, Ligas said, "don't be shy; play along."
"Everybody's a kid," Ligas said. "Loosen up and have fun."
Smith said the show will make audiences laugh. She said there are a couple of Christmas numbers, too.
The performances on Dec. 18 and 19 are the last for the show and are an unusual opportunity to see a McDaniel fall production. Students usually leave campus after final exams, which ended Dec. 11 this semester. Yet after giving four performances from Nov. 19 through Nov. 21, the students who comprise the cast and crew of "Snow White" have chosen to remain on campus after finals week in order to give three more performances.
Domser said he and the cast receive a lot of community support so staying past the end of semester to offer more performances is a way for the students to give back.
"It's fun for anybody of any age," Bowen said. "It's not just a show; it's an experience."
If you go:
What: McDaniel College's production of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
When: 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18, and 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19.
Where: McDaniel's WMC Alumni Hall, at 2 College Hill in Westminster
Cost: Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors age 60 and older, veterans, students and those with a McDaniel College identification card.