A new twist on a classic tale

November 10, 2008

Fresh off a recent sabbatical to study the history and practice of British Pantomime, Professor Ira Domser went to work on creating his adaptation of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

The production, which premieres this month at WMC Alumni Hall, is Domser’s enchanting take on the romantic classic fairy tale of Snow White, the prince who loves her, the stepmother who hates her, and the seven little gentlemen who save her.

“'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' is based on a classic Grimms' fairy tale, and as such is primarily for children,” Domser said. “The plot is childishly romantic, but hidden between the lines is its topical comedy and wholesome sexual innuendo that amuses adults. ‘Snow White’ tells a tale of old-fashioned morality in which good triumphs over evil, and it reminds us that the true magic of theatre lies in the hearts and souls of the audience.”

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19-22 and 1:30 p.m. Nov. 22, and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18-20 and 1:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at 1:30 p.m. in WMC Alumni Hall. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors, students, and the McDaniel community. For information, call the box office at 410-857-2448.

Domser, professor of Theatre Arts, said his adaptation is presented in the opulent style of the British holiday Pantomime. As such, it is a medley of music, laughter, a man wearing outrageous dresses, and madcap Vaudeville frivolity.

British Panto, as it is also known, is a unique British cultural phenomenon that combines the slapstick comedy of Commedia del'Arte with the clever humor of Benny Hill and Monty Python’s 'Flying Circus' and, over the last 200 years, has evolved into a hugely popular family entertainment, Domser said.

Domser said his production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” grew out of his work and research during his sabbatical in the fall of 2007.

“Included in that investigation was a visit to London,” where he observed the work of professional Panto producers, he said. Domser returned to London earlier this year, during January Term, to further his study of Panto.

Domser said the United States is the only English-speaking country that does not have a Christmas Panto tradition.

“This British holiday tradition is not unlike the American traditional presentations of the ‘Nutcracker’ or ‘A Christmas Carol,’” he said. “There are a few productions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ in Britain, but almost every town of any size has a Pantomime.”

Like “The Nutcracker,” British Panto features a memorable fairy tale, a gorgeous set, and a huge cast, Domser said. But unlike the ballet, it is also a hilarious musical comedy aimed at adults as well as the kids.

“From the very start, the audience participates in the entire show, cheering, laughing, booing, and shouting responses in a cleverly-crafted interplay between actors and audience,” he said. “A Panto is an opulent, spectacular crowd-pleasing show that attracts children, parents and grandparents alike, some of whom only visit the theatre that one time a year.”