The Brothers Grimm never imagined a story like this.
Emerald City Theatre’s “Snow White as Performed by Professor TJ Barker’s Troupe of Theatricals” offers a unique twist on the well-known fairytale. Written and directed by the talented Ernie Nolan, the performance includes a play within a play that pays homage to vaudeville with its mix of music, storytelling and slapstick humor.
The theatrical experience begins as soon as you walk in the door, as you are likely to be met by Professor TJ Barker and his beguiling wife, Fannie, portrayed by Danny Taylor and Tosha Fowler. Letting the young audience get a chance to meet the Barkers before the performance not only gets the children excited to see the play but also sets up the concept of Barker as the proprietor of a traveling theater troupe. Once seated in the theater, the fun continues as troupe members perform card tricks and engage with the audience before the show. Once it’s curtain time, the audience discovers there’s a problem: The orchestra and 5 of the 7 dwarfs are missing. Knowing the show must go on, TJ Barker and his troupe use their problem-solving skills (which is the gateway theme in this show) to fill in the gaps, which include employing the thespians as puppeteers, musicians and prop holders.
The troupe’s “Snow White” follows an abridged version of the Grimm fairytale, which can be dark at times, but that darkness is counterbalanced with light-hearted moments and corny jokes from the troupe’s many “jesters.” Raymond Havey and Michael Richardson are particularly endearing as brothers Ned and Ted O’Hanlon, gleefully portraying dwarfs Herschel and Heinz. Like most Emerald City plays, “Snow White as Performed by Professor TJ Barker’s Troupe of Theatricals” is interactive, engaging and gives young theatergoers a healthy dose of make-believe fun.
“Snow White as Performed by Professor TJ Barker’s Troupe of Theatricals” runs through May 20 at the Emerald City Theatre at the Apollo Theater in Chicago. For information about tickets and show times visit their website or call the box office at 773-935-6100. Be sure to check the website about special Valentine’s weekend performances.