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This ‘Snow White’ staging is a bit colorful

Director Chris Baldock and actor Lindsay Pearce, playing Snow White, during rehearsals for "A Snow White Christmas." This holiday musical is a Laguna Playhouse production.
Director Chris Baldock and actor Lindsay Pearce, playing Snow White, during rehearsals for “A Snow White Christmas.” This holiday musical is a Laguna Playhouse production.
(Kevin Chang / Weekend)

It’s a familiar tale. The wicked queen is not happy that someone younger is considered the “fairest of them all” by a magic mirror and attempts to kill her competition. But the girl finds sanctuary in the home of seven kind dwarfs and in the love of the handsome prince, who eventually saves her with true love’s kiss.

Now add a little Bruno Mars, a topical reference to a reality show family and humor that might have made the Brothers Grimm, well, grim, and you’ve got “A Snow White Christmas,” now at the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach through Dec. 27.

Lythgoe Family Productions has put a decidedly updated spin on the classic “Snow White.”

Starring Lindsay Pearce, runner-up of the reality TV show “The Glee Project,” as Snow White and “Star Trek’s” Marina Sirtis as the Wicked Queen, the show is a panto that features renditions of songs made popular by artists like Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.

Panto, a popular form of humor in England, transforms a fairy tale by introducing modern music, jokes and dances as well as audience participation.

“What I wanted to do was come in and bring a whole new concept and put new jokes and panto things in that they haven’t seen before,” said director Chris Baldock, who flew in from England to do the show at the request of the Lythgoe family after having choreographed it in his home country. “There’s also a lot of different comedy. It’s been a good process because they’re always open to suggestions and so am I. It’s good to go along with it all. We’ve come up with some good stuff.”

“A Snow White Christmas” includes jabs at celebrities, like when the court jester is compared to Miley Cyrus and similarities are drawn between Snow White’s quick marriage and how fast the Kardashians tend to get married.

Jokes are also aimed at the actors themselves. As Sirtis walks across the stage, other characters reference “Star Trek,” and before the mirror gets smashed into pieces, Neil Patrick Harris, as the mirror, tries to stop the process by boasting of his credentials.

“‘How I Met Your Mother’ is going into syndication,” he cries out.

The prince, portrayed by James Royce Edwards, is often considered a throwaway character, but Baldock noted that his performance is one of the most entertaining.

“I’ve never had a prince make me laugh so much in rehearsals,” he said. “Traditionally, he’s a big, tall, handsome guy who sings, and that’s it. But James has a lot of comedy. We call him a human Buzz Lightyear because of the way he acts and poses.”

Pearce, who has played the role in a Los Angeles production and was on the TV musical show “Glee” following her “Glee Project” success, said one of her favorite things about the show is being able to entertain children. She noted that many schools don’t have flourishing performing arts programs.

“To bring kids in and give them a taste of the magic that we were able to have when we were younger, not behind a screen, that’s amazing,” said the 24-year-old Los Angeles resident.

The Laguna Beach Playhouse, with the help of the nonprofit Golden State Foods Foundation, will offer free showings of the play for underserved youths in the area, including students from various Santa Ana elementary schools.

Pearce, who will have a recurring role on the ABC Family show “Recovery Road” beginning in January, said she is equally entertained by the seven dwarfs, who are all played by local children with giant masks atop their heads and who steal the show in numbers like “The Lazy Song” and “YMCA.”

Baldock said the children have been a “delight” to work with and noted that production companies in England used to work with dwarfs.

“They’re starting to use more children ... in England too,” he said. “We used to use real dwarfs, and those guys have been in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ‘Harry Potter’ and all the big films. Budget-wise, they become very expensive.”

Baldock added: “And if you get children who are really good, fantastic. Ours are amazing. It’s great for the children too, because they get to work with professional actors.”

He said he is happy to be bringing panto to Laguna Beach, which is also referenced in the play with jokes aimed at local businesses, landmarks and streets like Laguna Canyon Road.

“It’s comedy through and through,” the director said. “The great thing is that it’s all for the family and so understandable. It’s a real treat for the holiday season.”

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IF YOU GO

What: “A Snow White Christmas”

When: Various times through Dec. 27, call box office for more information

Where: The Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

Cost: $20 to $60

Information: (949) 497-2787, Ext 1


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