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Mirror, mirror on the wall, what’s the cheesiest production of them all?  With its dumb jokes, Top 40 songs, and lame kid-show style, A Snow White Christmas takes the fall.

The title is misleading. It isn’t artful or pretty, and aside from recorded holiday songs during the intermission, it’s not a Christmas show. Go ahead, boo and heckle all you want. The actors will love it, because this Panto-styled musical on view at the Lyceum Theatre relies on an interactive audience.

Olivia Stuck and the Seven Dwarfs in A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS. Image: Cathy Cunningham Photography

Olivia Stuck and the Seven Dwarfs in A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS. Images: Cathy Cunningham Photography

We are expected to cheer for the heroine Snow White (Olivia Stuck of Disney XD’s “Kirby Buckets”) who opens the show with Lady GaGa’s “Born this Way.”

They want us to boo the Wicked Queen (Yvette Cason from a Broadway revival of Dreamgirls) as she schemes in “I Put a Spell on You.”

Neil Patrick Harris and Yvette Cason in A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS

Neil Patrick Harris and Yvette Cason in A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS

We roll our eyes as court jester Muddles (Jonathan Meza of Coronado School of the Arts) skips and flirts with tweens in the crowd. He has to be quick with improvisation. When the crowd slips into a coma, there’s little for him to do. The creep alarm goes off when he ogles over a sleeping Snow White because it’s too similar to date rape.  His strange costume of flour sack fabric and zigzag trim reminds us that he’s a harmless clown.

Jonathan Meza and Olivia Stuck in A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS

Jonathan Meza and Olivia Stuck in A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS

The most fascinating character is Herman the Huntsman (Neil Dale of Miss Saigon) who spouts vaudeville jibes with a real British accent. Prince Harry (James Royce Edwards as Jake in October Sky at the Old Globe, and other local shows) is a dimwit who can’t remember which way to charge off to.

Two teams of children portray the Dwarfs.  Spindly legs stick out from giant cartoony heads.

Assertive young kids may like the Panto approach because they can talk back to characters, as they do at home when watching TV. Assume some adults are booing and groaning because they spent $41 for the cheap tickets.  The ho-hum production is designed for undemanding audiences who watch a lot of TV.

Snow White, presented by San Diego Theatres in association with San Diego Rep, is the brainchild of Lythgoe Family Productions, the group that produces “American Idol and “So You Think You Can Dance.”  Son Kris wrote the script. Papa Nigel does a video cameo.  Neil Patrick Harris (of TV and Broadway) is a predictably droll Magic Mirror on video, the easiest theater gig ever.

There are moments of splendid dancing, by Andrew Perez, Kortinie Labay, Kaylie O’Meara, and Tervor Lerma, who could leap into any professional concert, including the many proven Nutcrackers in town.

If you’re looking for a sparkling holiday experience in the realm of The Nutcracker or The Grinch, Snow White ala Panto is not it. A few snowflakes fall, but there is no holiday standard song in the show, and a clunky sing-a-long portion is torture.  It doesn’t help that the Lyceum is under construction.  Families must hold hands and navigate levels of plywood instead of twinkling décor.

A Snow White Christmas at the Lyceum Stage, 79 Horton Plaza, downtown.  Run time 2 hours including intermission. http://sandiegotheatres.org/a-snow-white-christmas/

Kris Eitland

Kris Eitland

Kris Eitland covers dance and theater for Sandiegostory.com and freelances for other publications, including the Union Tribune and Dance Teacher Magazine. She grew up performing many dance styles and continued intensive modern dance and choreography at the Univ. of Minnesota, Duluth, and San Diego State Univ. She also holds a journalism degree from SDSU. Her career includes stints in commercial and public radio news production. Eitland has won numerous Excellence in Journalism awards for criticism and reporting from the San Diego Press Club. She has served on the Press Club board since 2011 and is a past president. She is a co-founder of Sandiegostory.com. She has a passion for the arts, throwing parties with dancing and singing, and cruising the Pacific in her family's vintage trawler. She trains dogs, skis, and loves seasonal trips to her home state of Minnesota.

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