SNOW WHITE -- At the National Theater through January 20.
The stage-ization of the charming Walt Disney film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" arrived clumsily at the National Theater on Wednesday, with buzzing amplification, uncoordinated sound cues, clanking and wavering sets -- including one that appeared at the wrong time and had to make a quick exit, and another that arrived with a dour stagehand during a scene -- actors' faces visible in the necks of animal costumes, stage smoke wafting out to make the audience cough, and other unprofessional mishaps.
The idea behind the show, created for New York's Radio City Music Hall in the hope of reviving its live family entertainment, was to make the still-popular movie seem "lifted from the screen and turned magically alive." In 1937, when "Snow White" was the first animated feature film, the idea behind it was to make magic by transcending the limitations of live actors.
Be that as it may, the method of transference is as primitive as early opera or ballet films, when stage performances were recorded exactly, without any attempt at the creative interpretation necessary for a different medium. "Snow White," in seeking to duplicate the film, carries the handicaps of the stage without using any of its advantages.
The dwarfs all wear oversized masks, modeled on the Disney faces but incapable of change of expression. You know Grumpy will never soften to Snow White's charms because it's obvious he can't. Mary Jo Salerno as Snow White, Richard Browne as Prince Charming and Anne Francine as the wicked queen look approximately like the cartoon characters, but disappointingly human in comparison to the artistic idealizations. The animals, being full-size adults in fuzzy costumes, towered over Snow White and the dwarfs.
It's an expensive outing, unlikely to represent an investment of exciting children to live theater.
However, there is one inadvertant touch that may be enough to make the evening -- if not for the children, at least for those who accompany them. The King of the Land of Make Believe sits in a conservative, geometric throne, but his Queen, that wicked foreigner, sits in -- are you ready? -- a Peacock Throne. She may be wicked, but apparently she knows a wicked bargain at the Royal Used Furniture Store when she sees one.