Company XIV's Snow White - The Fairest Show of Them All

Who is the fairest of them all?

Warning: This review has spoiler alerts

The original Grimm fairy tales were as grim as their namesake. They featured a stern, unforgiving morality in which evil was mercilessly punished. For instance, in Snow White the Queen Mother as punishment is forced to dance in hot burning shoes until she dies. Over the years ballets, Disney movies, Broadway shows, have all shaved the edges off these stories. People only think of "happily ever after" now.

Well, one company has brought back the "Grimm"ness of these original Germanic tales. Company XIV's production of Snow White opened last night at Minetta Lane Theatre and it manages to be a great entertaining show AND a dark, perverse interpretation of this oft-told fairy tale. I already reviewed their wonderfully entertaining Nutcracker Rouge in this blog. I made a return trip to see their version of Snow White. As entertaining as Nutcracker Rouge was, Snow White is simply on another level artistically.


It takes a lot of balls to combine baroque music with Schubert's St√§ndchen with Britney Spears with golden oldies in one show, but director Austin McCormick makes it work. The company is a remarkable collection of singers, dancers and acrobats. His choreography seamlessly transitions between drag queen burlesque, classical ballet, puppetry, ballroom dancing, and aerialist manipulations. This show has camp, but it is not campy and unlike Nutcracker Rouge it isn't just "fun."

Laura Careless
At the center of the story is Laura Careless's terrifying, demented Queen Mother. Careless is onstage almost the entire evening and really carries the entire show. I saw her as "Marie Claire" in Nutcracker Rouge and it's amazing how she's transformed herself into this horrifying beauty. The show ingeniously uses projections and voice-overs as she implores the mirror about who is the "fairest of them all" -- it could be an internal nightmare in one beautiful but insecure woman's mind. The show follows the Grimm outline of the fairytale to the letter -- yes she does "eat" Snow White's heart, then she tracks Snow White and tries to kill her with a corset, then a comb, then a poisoned apple, and when Snow White is rescued by the Prince, the Queen Mother is forced to dance to her death on hot coals. The way the show dramatizes each of these events was consistently creative and engaging -- I particularly loved the way Snow White steps into some pretty pink ribbons that gradually becomes a tangled corset trap.

Snow White (Hilly Bodin) eating apple
Snow White also challenges traditional beliefs about gender and beauty. Snow White (Hilly Bodin) herself is a punk rock type with extremely close-cropped, even bald hair, whereas Careless conforms more to the conventional standards of beauty. Snow White does indeed have "skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony" but in the form of a k.d. lang lookalike. And the Prince is a fabulous female aerialist named Courtney Giannone who does a show-stopping dance with a wooden hula hoop that brought the house down. Here's a grainy video I took of her incredible number:



Despite the crowd-pleasing numbers (and there are plenty) the most memorable images of the show are the ones that highlight the dark undertones of these fairy tales before they were Disneyfied. The numbers for the Queen Mother are the most haunting: when she finally hears from the mirror that she's the "fairest of them all" she breaks into an ecstatic, orgasmic celebratory dance. 

Here's the "Queen Ate the Heart" number:


When Snow White is rescued the Queen Mother is forced to dance to death in burning shoes. That dance is hair-curling: Loveless's knees buckle, she collapses over and over again but is still forced to dance. She's become trapped in her own body, trapped in her own beauty, trapped by her own love of dance. I only caught the final moments of this number but it was great theater.


Company XIV is a fantastic ensemble -- McCormick maximizes everyone's talents. Marcy Richardson has a beautiful, versatile singer who can sing anything from Britney Spears to Schubert lieder. The drag queens are all amazing dancers. This is a company that tries to do it all, and does. Last night was the first preview. Snow White runs until March 12. If you like dance, if you like music, if you like fairy tales, then run, don't walk, to pick up a ticket. This is truly the fairest show of them all.

Comments

  1. What a beautiful review! I saw it last night, and thought it was amazing. However - these videos give a LOT of the show away! Maybe too much of the show? Spoiler alerts should abound, at the very least. Seems a little pirate-y, even for a show that supports people instagramming and social media-ing the heck out of their shows. But I couldn't agree with you more about how amazing it is, especially Laura Careless.

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    1. Hi, I actually did not include many of the videos I took, just the ones I thought were the most amazing. I will add a spoiler alert however. I don't think grainy videos can do justice to how wonderful their show is.

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  2. Now I know who was it that so annoyingly taped the show last night! Anyhow, a fantastic show, particularly second act. Love everything Company XIV does. So far my favorite is Cinderella.

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    Replies
    1. Actually I stupidly missed some of the best parts including the flamenco. But yes, great show and I suspect it will get great word of mouth. Certainly I'm telling everyone I know to see it.

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