A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS; written by Kris Lythgoe; directed by Bonnie Lythgoe; Jeanne Wagner Theater; now through Dec. 29; tickets available through ArtTix; running time 2 1/2 hours with one intermission
SALT LAKE CITY — Panto is a different sort of theater — a musical kind of variety stage show loosely based on a mix of fairytale stories, done with song, dance and storytelling outside the fourth wall.
It's somewhat new to Utah audiences, so it's kind of hard to judge how well it works.
Based on crowd reaction on opening night, it was well received. Children were moving to the music and singing. Adults appeared to be engaged.
As the story — in this case, the story of Snow White and the seven puppet-head dwarves — is presented, the audience is encouraged to jump right in and boo and hiss as well as cheer and sing along.
Some get a golden ticket to come up on stage with Muddles (played by Nickelodeon Star Jonathan Meza) and say hello standing in the spotlight.
Muddles introduces the evening and does quite well as a stand-up comic. He's got the local jokes ready (including some directed at Mitt Romney, Mormons and Jon Huntsman) and he's also exceptionally limber and creative. He mixes up his words in a hilarious fashion and does great comic impressions.
David Osmond is Prince Harry of Park City with the biggest, most engaging Osmond smile ever. He alone is worth the price of admission. His vocals are terrific, as well.
Margo Watson does well as the vain and wicked queen who wants to be Queen of Utah no matter what the coast. She doesn't apologize for her crass behavior and looks simply gorgeous in her gowns.
Amy Whitcomb (from "The Sing-Off" and "The Voice") is Snow Flake, er, Snow White, and sings beautifully when she's given the chance.
Nigel Lythgoe is the onscreen image of the Magic Mirror, sort of a cameo appearance in the story. He doesn't mince words with the queen when she wants to know if she's still the fairest — and she's not.
There's a little bit of Cinderella here plus some Hogwarts, some Thriller and a whole lot of corn and Osmond and Mormon culture in the jokes.
The sets are hand-painted and impressive, and the costuming is great.
A couple of minor problems on opening night made it hard to hear the vocals over the music, and the timing between the mirror and the live characters was a bit off.
It would also be nice to see facial expression from the dwarves, something you don't get with sculptured puppet heads.
There are a couple of transition difficulties and one or two (of the 14) songs that make this a little overlong (maybe cut "YMCA?").
But if you're looking for a different kind of holiday show, something fun that kids between about 6 and 18 would like, this might be the one for you.
The Lythgoe family intends to produce a new American Panto story each holiday season.
If you go ...
What: "A Snow White Christmas"
Where: Jeanne Wagner Theater, 138 W. 300 South
When: 7 p.m., Dec. 13-29
Cost: $25-$54 from ArtTix, 801-355-2787 (Golden tickets are $75)
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.