“Snow White” from Brno City Theatre christened her great CD
Ondřej Doubrava 22. December 2010 zdroj musical.cz
Christmas time is traditionally a time for fairy-tales, and so it isn’t surprising that on 26th December 2009, Brno City Theatre decided to christen their much requested and awaited CD featuring what was at that time the greatest home-grown theatrical hit – the crazy musical fairy-tale by Karel Cón, Stano Slovák, Jan Šotkovský and Petr Štěpán - “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, issued after a year of successful performances.
The christening was presented by director and co-author Stano Slovák. He wasn’t alone on the stage for long, as he called up such people who are absolutely essential for a christening – godparents, i.e. Petr Štěpán, who is another author of the libretto, and actress Lucie Zedníčková, who told the audience how much her daughter Amálka likes “Snow White”. She thanked Karel Cón for the beautiful music and all three librettists for the enlightened approach and exaggeration that keeps both adults and children entertained in this fairy-tale story. And her wish for the CD? To bring everyone happiness, of course.
The previously-mentioned Karel Cón (who also directed the performance) and ‘Snow White’ Svetlana Slováková joined the toast. They drew the names of five spectators from the audience, who took the CD home immediately.
After that, a series of jolly melodies and jokes began and the regular spectators were certainly curious as to how this festive reprise would be different - besides, improvising is permitted. We didn’t hesitate and, with the kind permission of Brno City Theatre, made a short recording of the best moments of the performance. It is proof of the great atmosphere both on stage and in the auditorium - and we hope you enjoy it!
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the rhythms of reggae and the cancan
Lucie Hřebíčková 9. May 2009 zdroj rozrazil-online.cz
A crazy musical fairy tale for the whole family - so went the subtitle to this yet another original musical staged by Brno City Theatre on their Music Stage with the premiere on 6th December 2008. Composer Karel Cón and librettists Stano Slovák, Jan Šotkovský and Petr Štěpán combined the original fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm with the poetry of Disney, added no small dose of their own imagination and created work with a title that says all - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The Brothers Grimm, Disney, Slovák, Šotkovský, Štěpán
Although the creators are aiming to tempt all generations to the theatre it must be said (and stressed) than they are primarily focusing on the smallest spectators. The Grimms' rather frightening story about beautiful Snow White and her evil stepmother has been stripped of its drastic scenes and furnished with Disney-style goodness and many of their own witty ideas, and then shaped into the form of a simple performance. It thus differs from the original fairy tale in that children don't have to be afraid of having any resulting nightmares, especially when the despicable stepmother in the form of a man in women's clothing is unlikely to cause fear in even the most easily-frightened representatives of the youngest generation. The authors were even unafraid to deal with the most basic problem with staging this piece - how to get dwarfs up on stage. It's easy. At Brno City Theatre they just let them grow. And so Snow White doesn't find herself pampering seven cute little men, but some proper (though also cute) grown-up men, in fact the largest actors of the ensemble. And how did they explain this unusual transformation to their youngest visitors?
Again it is simple. The stepmother is the root of all evil, and so gets the blame also for the dwarfs' predicament - they were cursed for being more popular in the kingdom than her. A fresh, original and mainly functional idea. The audience still gets to see the little people anyway - once the stepmother has been punished and the curse lifted, all seven tall guys hide their lower halves in the orchestra pit and throw replacement legs over the edge, which in symbiosis with the remainder of their bodies gives the impression that they are now ''true'' dwarfs.
The character of the hunter has also undergone radical changes. The Grimms had him appear merely in the scene when he was to kill Snow White, but at Brno City Theatre he's been given much more room. He is also cursed by the stepmother, and for disobeying her order is 'sentenced' to become a year older with every step he takes. His cruel fate is woven throughout the story, but in the end even he gains his freedom.
Strength in simplicity
Director Stano Slovák opens the fairy-tale with the aid of a realistic opening scene in which a father, falling asleep as is traditional, is reading the Snow White story to his little girl. When dreaming she transforms into Snow White, while her father becomes the hunter. We know this method of framing the story from, for example, the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, where the story takes place in a school academy, although Slovák doesn't keep to this storyline very strictly. Actually, he doesn't keep to it at all. The introductory scene thus remains totally isolated, and its theme never reappears, which begs the question of whether it had any point. At any rate, if we overlook this deficiency it works as an intro to the whole performance, which may seem a bit clichéd to adults, though children have a good laugh at the sleepy father, who as he drifts into limbo mixes Snow White up with Little Red Riding Hood before finally falling asleep in his daughter's bed. The character of this scene is also a sign of what to expect from the rest of the performance.
This is not only comedy but primarily simplicity, which can be found not only in the form of the production itself but also in its music and text. Everything is tailored to the child spectators, which are still unable to understand more complex relationships. The text and the individual gags can seem somewhat naïve and simple, although they are completely appropriate for the majority of the audience, i.e. children. This simplicity is supported by noticeable stylisation, which is visible mainly in the movements of individual characters, primarily the stepmother, Snow White and the dwarfs, and also in intonation. It is exactly this which is often used in a very clear and precise way, similar to the speech of 'actors' playing for children in schools and playschools. Particularly Snow White could become a bit more 'normal', as not even the smallest spectator is so naïve.
Although the authors are aiming mainly at children, it should be said that all groups of theatregoers will get something from the play due to the direction and the improvisational skills of the actors. While the child spectator will enjoy the dwarfs' gags most of all, teenagers will appreciate Dopey's comment that he was 'dole v dole' ('down in the mine') which will remind most people of the name of one music group, and those even older will be entertained by Dopey, sleeping under Badger Rock in a thorn bush, particularly when his friends evaluate his non-hairy legs with the sentence 'yours are bare'. It's just a shame that the most common 'source' of comedy, i.e. the dwarfs, isn't given more room by the directors. Sneezy does sometimes sneeze, but for example Grumpy, Sleepy and Bashful lack their characteristic behaviour.
Cancan, reggae, etc.
The music director Karel Cón is an outstanding partner. He appears with this at Brno City Theatre as a creator of musicals for the first time, even though he has similar works on his account already. His music matches the spirit of the performance completely, being simple, melodic, playful and easy to remember. Between the melodies typical of such musicals he has also added some well known rhythms, so reggae is heard as the dwarfs head off to work, and the year is described with the aid of the cancan, which they also dance in style. This mix of various styles and genres seems perfectly natural and pleasantly, rhythmically and melodically enlivens and refreshes the musical genre. Even the afore-mentioned cancan doesn't seem cheap, as it often does when we see and hear it. The music is thus a very colourful part of the whole performance.
In a swarm of forest fruits
The director staged the performance on a set created by proven designers Jaroslav Milfajt and Andrea Kučerová. The performance opens with a Disney castle, formed by two round towers and many smaller, similarly round mini-towers. The influence of the animated version of the tale is also visible in the whiteness, and in the purple costume of the stepmother. This, however, is where the inspiration from Disney ends. Milfajt has placed the magic mirror between the two towers, and it looks like it is made up of glass shards placed cleverly in order to form a moving mouth and eyes. The mirror doesn't only speak and sing, but is generally a very lively scenographic element. Another such element is the dwarfs' wooden cottage, which can be opened up much like a doll's house. It is the matter of a moment to transfer from outside to inside, among the miniature beds and chairs.
However, absolutely the best work was done on the costumes personifying the 'fruits of the forest', i.e. from Milfajt's workshop, which thanks to their realistic, though of course notably oversized designs, symbolize both the forest itself and its mystery. Each of the characters have one specific 'forest fruit' on their head - acorns, horse chestnuts, toadstools - the rest of their bodies were covered in leaves. Everything is in the appropriate proportions and colours.
The spectrum of costumes was completed by Andrea Kučerová's designs for the other characters, which were more or less as one would expect. The stepmother was traditionally dressed in dark purple clothes, the symbol of evil, while Snow White wore a simple dress with red ribbons about her waist. The most imaginative costumes were those of the dwarfs, whose clothes were all too small for them (because only the dwarfs had grown). The rich blend of short trousers, blouses and braces was completed by small coloured hats placed on zanily dishevelled wigs.
When a man plays a woman
The music and costumes created a solid base for the actors to build on. Jan Apolenář definitely stood out from among his colleagues as the evil stepmother (alternating with Milan Němec). Apolenář has adapted to his situation as a man in a woman's role brilliantly and found a way in which he can portray her well. He doesn't overdo the gestures, and doesn’t try to exaggerate with any pseudo-womanly movements. He moves very naturally in women's clothing, aided by his expressive gestures and consistent intonation. It is exactly these two last-mentioned elements of Apolenář's performance that are the source of many comic scenes, which he enriches with his own improvised asides, such as when the stepmother sends Snow White off to visit the bees with the comment 'And don't take a bee-veil, the little bees are frightened of it.'
Apolenář's comedy, based on the equilibrium between realism and stylisation, is well-seconded by the dwarves, who of course appear more like one man than like seven individuals. The fun comes from their mutual confrontations and most of all from the wittiness of the text, which gives space for word and intonation games. The most notable is Igor Ondříček's all-knowing Doc, who try as he might is unable to bring his comic talent into play, as there wasn't much comedy allocated to his role. In the same way, alongside him particularly Vojtěch Blahuta excelled as Dopey, although his role was mainly based on expressive gestures. Other dwarf roles were filled by Jiří Mach (Grumpy), Jakub Uličník (Sneezy), Lukáš Vlček (Sleepy), Jakub Przebinda (Bashful) and Michal Matěj (Lucky). All of them had alternates.
The best acting performance was that of the father and hunter Petr Štěpán. Štěpán firstly enjoyed a comic part as the sleepy father before being transformed into the hunter labouring under an evil curse.
He gradually turns into an exhausted old man, who gains the sympathy of the whole audience in the moment where, with his last strength, he throws his arms around a tree so that he may become part of it as it grows.
On the other hand, the weakest link is Snow White herself. The creators of this work took away her total naïvety - Snow White knows how to twist her hosts around her little finger. However, Coufalová relies too much on her 'princess-like' appearance, her delivery is rather stylised and her unsure intonation is more like that of an actress in community theatre.
The group of main characters is completed by the mirror, brought to life with high-quality singing from Marta Prokopová and Petr Šmiřák, and finally by the prince, Robert Jícha.
All of the characters and their interpretations are connected by the unusually high quality and the balanced intonation of the singing component of the production.
The musical Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs offers theatregoers a new look at a traditional theme, which thanks to its quality and simplicity not only captures the attention of child spectators but also pleases their parents.
How to make a fairy-tale musical
Michal Novák 16. April 2009 zdroj I-divadlo.cz
It would seem to be almost impossible to look for something new in the Snow White fairy-tale without turning innovative somersaults - the story can be told at the theatre more or less successfully as it is. Such an ambition would seem to be too humble for the Brno City Theatre, however. They were faced with the none-too-easy task of having to create a musical for the whole family. Maybe this was just a starting point for the authors for the whirlwind of creativity and series of singular moments due to which you shouldn't miss Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The material was given a fresh new interpretation by the authors, who are all of one generation, namely the actor and director Stano Slovák, the dramaturgist Jan Šotkovský and the actor Petr Štěpán. They collaborated both on the libretto and on all of the song texts, allowing themselves to be inspired by everything which could be a source of inspiration, whether is was the literary original or the now-classic Disney version. Their authorial conception arose however from a seemingly modest base - a humorous and notably ironic look at this extremely well-known story, including a sizeable dash of very black humour. This piece can be seen from a child's perspective as it offers children the irresistible chance to identify themselves with fairy-tale heroes (even without mentioning the warning against accepting 'gifts' from strangers), but on another plane offers a lot to adults as well. Combined it provides intelligent entertainment for all age categories and I can't remember when such a similar diversification of jokes and situations has done so much to underline the family character of a project before.
The success of Brno's Snow White has its roots in the fact that it remains a classic fairytale, it keeps to the storyline and yet is extremely special and in many ways original. The musical also thrills the public with its score by Karel Cón. It can be characterised as eclectic - in some passages monumental, in others playful, it is full of good feeling and even hides within itself several minor citations from famous musicals, so you can enjoy discovering them (one possible clue is that some of these musicals are actually performed at Brno City Theatre). The dwarf cancan (with a very catchy text for children) is of course fully attributed to Offenbach. The multi-genre nature and 'sound' of this musical might give a less-knowledgeable member of the audience the mistaken impression that they were watching some kind of 'Broadway' production (though not of the Prague kind).
I have my suspicions that the authors have copied every rule in the textbook on how to make theatre for (today's) children. Well, I would have if such a book existed. The child spectator is in many ways a very specific type of watcher or - let's be direct - evaluator, and requires clear definition even during a 'crazy-style' performance. The child's perception of good and evil requires clear identification with both sides of the fairytale world. There mustn't be any blundering in the dark. The representative of evil is understandably the Stepmother. When she, in her whole awe-inspiringness, appears on the stage and has her first conversation with the magic mirror, the child's spirit is filled with fear. The Stepmother is so convincing that it's a wonder that the smaller children in the audience don't begin to cry. But it would be cruel of the trio of librettists to let the fear remain within the children, and so they equip that terrible figure of a powerful enchantress with a set of comic traits which cause her to become, in the children's eyes, certainly dangerous but in her basic nature harmless and - funny. They look forward to every entrance of the Stepmother's with enthusiasm, and apart from that, we just know that Snow White and the seven dwarfs will, by their cooperative efforts, prevail. A similar principle of work with children's emotions is also used by the director Stano Slovák in the 'Scary Forest' scene within which we fall completely into the world of fantasy.
The natural fear of darkness and exaggerated notions melts away with the discovery that the dark forest simply won't hurt Snow White. The storyline continues with getting to know the dwarfs, the cursing of the huntsman, the three meetings between the naïve Snow White and the disguised Stepmother and Snow White's three 'deaths', her rescue and at the end the just punishment of evil. The dwarfs in Slovák's production are, as one could expect, the vehicles for guileless and sweet infantile humour. Every day they head off to dig for diamonds in the mine, they keep to their charming rituals and certainly do what they do very well. They help the important overall impression one has of the fairytale by all working together. But wait a mo, the dwarfs are somewhat oversized! The dwarfs' small clothes are stuffed full to bursting with the biggest members of Brno City Theatre's ensemble. Of course, the dwarfs' leader, Prof, explains what has happened to the seven-member band (yes, they were also cursed by the Stepmother). It's a great joke from the producers, and the unbridled craziness of the dwarfs adds something extra to it.
A second 'different' aspect is the original interpretation of the Stepmother herself. She is played by a man. Well, according to the director, a woman would never be capable of anything so evil. The thrilling performance (Milan Němec) simply shows what a great tactic this was - not with the idea of putting on some kind of cheap transvestite show, but in the interest of the gradation of comic effect. The grotesquely self-confident 'Stepmother-man' Milan Němec, camouflaged under perfect make-up, acted as if he had collected within himself all of the possible essences of smarminess, slyness and just plain anger at the fact that he wasn't the most beautiful person in the kingdom. Particularly the scenes where he visits Snow White in disguise are great demonstrations of this actor's creativity in the 'bad guy' field. Němec easily rules the stage with his freaked-out eyes, his jumping and artifice, his sweet words and gestures ended with furious exclamations. It is a wonder that in his fit of frustration he doesn't bite into the poisoned apple himself, or rather herself. The falsity of the character is impressively depicted in the 'Shawl' scene with his leaping modulated singing. It's as if a chameleon knew how to sing and changed with every tone!
The scenography in the magic hands of Jaroslav Milfajt and the choreographic playfulness of Hana Kratochvilová-Josefiová together develop most of all the fantasy aspect of the fairytale theme. First of all they bring us to a typical Disney chateau, within which the courtiers are contorting like the works of a wind-up clock. We move on from this effective prologue and 'zoom in' on the darkest chamber with its magic (and singing) mirror. The duet of male and female voices, the grand entrance of the Stepmother and the magic with glass and Snow White's picture creates a further thrilling image. After this we are not even surprised by the creative and dynamic lightness with which the 'forest fruits' are made to dance within the dark forest. A further 'zoom' for the spectators is the space outside the dwarfs' cottage and then that within it. There is plenty of room for the dwarfs to mess around and for jolly dance numbers together with Snow White. This is of course nothing compared to the choreographic climax of the evening - the Stepmother's 'dance of death'. The dwarfs fit her up with enchanted dancing shoes that cause evil people to dance themselves to death. Milan Němec performs such an exciting display of clownish movement (which he comments on in great style) that the spectators are sorry when at the end of the dance he disappears into the ground.
It would seem that the Snow White character hasn't been given particularly much space and that all the attention is captured by the dwarfs and the Stepmother. But that's not the case. Snow White dominates with her beauty (the mirror basically doesn't lie) and she is a calmer counterpoint to the crazy events up on stage. Not only does Svetlana Slováková fulfil to the last detail a child's concept of how Snow White should be, but she also shows them exactly those feelings of fear which are not unknown to children, and the dangers of gullibility. Within the dwarfs cottage her sometimes even dangerous female pragmatism awakens, which is something which fathers will certainly notice with enjoyment.
Acting and singing performances also worth mentioning are those of Rastislav Gajdoš (The Huntsman), Aleš Slanina (The Prince) and from the seven overgrown dwarfs particularly Ladislav Kolář (Prof), Dušan Vitázek (Grumpy) and Alan Novotný (Dopey). At Brno City Theatre a great spectacle has arisen from the overused concept of a fairy-tale with elements of horror. It isn't without interest that with the growing number of reprise performances there are more and more 'voices' which have a great chance to become popular at least in Brno. Everything turned out well, apart from the fact that the next day the dwarfs' breakfast was prepared once again by Dopey instead of the skilled Snow White. These dwarfs will certainly solve this problem: they'll wait for Little Red Riding Hood.
Snow White is loved both by children and by those accompanying them
Vladimír Čech 1. February 2009 zdroj Kam supplement
A nice little fairy tale musical inspired by the fairy tale of the same name by the Brothers Grimm, sprinkled with a little of the essence of Walt Disney's famous animated version, it is nevertheless a domestic product; the music was composed by Karel Cón, who together with Karel Albrecht appears in the roles of conductor and music producer. The libretto and song texts were written by Stanislav Slovák, dramaturgist Jan Šotkovský and Petr Štěpán. For Štěpán and Slovák, who took on the direction of the piece, these texts are their debut work as librettists. And this first work is successful.
Even though the auditorium is naturally crammed with children, there's plenty on offer for those accompanying them. The addressing of very different generations and bringing of intelligent entertainment to the whole family is something which Brno City Theatre have managed very well. The sincere ovations and immediate reactions in the lobbies just after the premiere confirmed this eloquently. ''Snow White'' excels most in its sincerity, humorous approach and wit. Cón hasn't done anything experimental with his score, keeping firmly to the middle of the road, but his melodies and rhythms are not lacking in desired lyricism or dynamism, which are qualities most of all possessed by the seven dwarfs. Only the public can still add to this. And in the end it isn't even noticeable that the catchiest musical passage wasn't one of Cón's hits, but a voluptuously exciting version of Offenbach's popular cancan.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ą la Brno City Theatre remains a classic fairy tale, even though in many things it is a little 'warped'. It is introduced by a sleepy father reading to his daughter - the father falls asleep before she can. When you find out that the first of the dwarfs, Doc, is played by tall guy Igor Ondříček (alternating with Ladislav Kolář who is also hardly a midget), then you wonder to yourself if some of the Stepmother's evil magic might not have had something to do with the ''gigantic'' growth of the dwarfs. However, at the end these manly dwarfs have their enchantment removed and are once again pixie-sized - if you, dear readers are wondering how they'll manage this up on stage, well, this article is not about to reveal this. You would be denied a moment of surprise - and such moments in this performance are many - the ground is well prepared for them, and this is thanks to Jaroslav Milfajt's inventive set (he also designed the 'forest fruits' costumes, while the remaining costumes were according to designs by Andrea Kučerová).
At the premiere the actors were literally powered up with energy and performed with visible enthusiasm. The greatest applause was rightfully gained by Jan Apolenář (Milan Němec alternates) as the evil stepmother. His interpretation of this role was far from being a cheaply popularist caricature of a mature woman, although it contained a solid portion of distinctive humour. Radka Coufalová in the title role of Snow White (Svetlana Slováková alternates) also gained the sympathy of the audience… as did everyone else...
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Naděžda Parmová 20. January 2009 zdroj Zrcadlo Blanenska a Boskovicka
A mirror + Snow White - what do they have in common? Yes, they are both part of the fairy-tale by the Brothers Grimm. The mirror is magic and Snow White is beautiful - what child or adult could resist? This is the idea that the members of the ensemble of Brno City Theatre - Stanislav Slovák, Jan Šotkovský and Petr Štěpán - have built their "family" musical on. Stano Slovák also took directorial control. The humorous and witty Jan Šotkovský explained the creative process of the preparation of the libretto at a press conference - it took place mainly at night, and no wonder, Slovák as well as Štěpán act every evening. It is a musical, and so we expect songs and music. These were supplied by Karel Cón, as always displaying professionalism as he draws from many genres. For example, the dwarfs leaving for work in the mines are accompanied by a samba which made the children in the first rows get up from their seats and dance in the aisle. The storyline of the fairy-tale is traditionally well-known, but the untraditional element in the musical is the character of the evil queen - Jan Apolenář and Milan Němec alternate. Why men? The stepmother needs to be so evil that a woman couldn't possibly be like this. The comicity of the beautiful Apolenář is an experience for adults, while children crouch in horror.
The dwarfs were a problem. Should they choose children, or seven of the smallest members of the ensemble, or have the actors play at the backdrop? The authors have simply turned it the other way round. The dwarfs were originally tiny servants at the royal garden and because they knew too many things about the queen, she made them big. They live in a deep forest, and have problems with their tiny beds, food and keeping things tidy. Snow White is their salvation. However, three times she cannot resist the bad Stepmother, so she ends up lying in a nice glass coffin with the prince (Robert Jícha), who comes too late, singing beautifully to her. All the dwarfs have to persuade him forcefully to kiss Snow White and then…
Jaroslav Milfajt's stage is like a wooden children's play set, nicely colourful and with a fairy-tale look when lit. Andrea Kučerová's costumes correspond slightly to the19th century 'empire' style.
You can believe that you'll have a good time with your children. We wish this young creative team more such ideas.
Snow White, giant dwarfs and a fascinating male "Stepmother"
Lenka Suchá 5. January 2009 zdroj Brněnský deník
Since December, Brno City Theatre has been presenting an original Czech musical based on the motifs of a well-known fairy-tale by the brothers Grimm at its Music Theatre.
It always requires a lot of courage to take a classical story and turn it into a current modern matter, even more so when it is a notoriously famous fairy-tale which several generations of children have grown up on. You also have to bear in mind that children are the most critical spectators and their reactions show, without compromise, what they find interesting and what is boring for them.
A four-member team from Brno City Theatre, composed of Karel Cón (music), Stano Slovák, Jan Šotkovský and Petr Štěpán (libretto), managed to handle all this when they showed their original version of the fairy-tale Snow White at the Music Theatre in a December premiere. It was an authorial debut for both of the well-known actors from the theatre ensemble, and for Stano Slovák it was only his second professional production as a director.
When adapting the text to the form of "a crazy musical fairy-tale for the whole family", the quartet of creators was inspired both by the classical work of the brothers Grimm and by Walt Disney's cartoon version. The authors kept the basic storyline, including the happy end, and flavoured it with a few innovations.
The most important innovation is the acting of the key role of the Stepmother by a man. The creators were apparently inspired by the thought that "a woman couldn't be so bad and so cruel". This risky move came off largely thanks to the excellent acting of Jan Apolenář, who has thus added another distorted character to his portfolio of roles after Sebastian von Steinberg in Inferno. After the starting, slightly transvestite opening Apolenář acts his role with bravura. He can be happy in a self-centred way, slyly kind as well as cruelly unfeeling, all with unhidden passion. And almost as an afterthought he also manages demanding stretches of song and walks on high heels all the time, with admirable certainty and elegance!
The evil, which is presented in an almost fascinating way, nudges the main figure and only source of female energy on the stage - Snow White - somewhat into the background of the whole story. This is even though she carries out, in Radka Coufalová's interpretation, all the activities which we know from the fairy-tale: she looks after the dwarfs' house, prepares their breakfast, falls asleep and is brought to life again, and finds happiness in the arms of the prince…
The dwarfs Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Bashful, Sneezy and Sleepy make contact with the children in the audience most easily - they do so with the help of catchy melodies, alongside witty dialogues, and energy-filled choreography with unusual entrances via the orchestra pit. And you won't be surprised that they look rather like giants after their first song in which they explain their super-size themselves. Even though their beds are a bit too small for them now, the attributes of dwarfish behaviour have remained with them, such as for example mining.
As far as the musical side is concerned, the production uses all possible genres which correspond to the plot with their rhythm (march, samba, blues, waltz). In one place, you can hear them as a multiple-voice dwarf choir singing "a cappella".
The stage - dream-like as a fairy-tale and yet purposeful - was created by Jaroslav Milfajt, who employed great invention in constructing the royal castle with its picturesque towers as well as the wooden house of the dwarfs, the haunted forest with 'forest fruits' that have come to life and the Stepmother's room with its singing magic mirror. He cleverly used the technical facilities which the Music Theatre offers (the turntable, movable stage, trap cellar) to create the indoor and outdoor objects.
And so a simply presented story which is playful, kind, humorous and crazy was created in the authorial workshop of Brno City Theatre. If the aim of the creators was to entertain people both large and small, they were successful.
Mainly the reactions of the children confirm this, as they commented on the events loudly in places or hummed the songs. So if you are thinking about how to entertain your children during these freezing days, take them to the theatre. Seven is a lucky number, after all.
Brno City Theatre has the largest dwarfs
Jana Svozilová 1. January 2009 zdroj Kult
Brno City Theatre has produced, as their fourth production of this season, a real hit. A crazy musical fairy-tale for the whole family, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs had its premiere at the beginning of December.
The libretto for the performance, which originates in the internationally famous fairy tale by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, is the work of the trio Stano Slovák, Jan Šotkovský and Petr Štěpán. The first person mentioned is also the director of this piece. The fiery, swift and catchy music was penned by Karel Cón, unashamedly lifting snatches from notoriously famous melodies many times. Let's name the "dwarf" cancan by Jacques Offenbach as an example. The set, which completes the impression of a really fairy-tale atmosphere, is, together with the costumes of the fruits of the forest the work of the 'court scenographer' Jaroslav Milfajt.
The zany dwarfs, sweet Snow White, the narcissistic Stepmother and the courtiers all wore costumes by Andrea Kučerová, who did a great job with them. The set, costumes and Hana Kratochvilová's choreography all fitted together like the pieces of a jigsaw and together gave form to a magical fairy-tale world where the cast weren't afraid to ham it up or pull off a few great gags. The lighting and sound design was also top notch, with some impressive moments like the sound of the scary forest, or the flushing away of the Stepmother at the end.
Slovák's Snow White is full of surprises. An example: one of the tallest members of the theatre's musical ensemble was cast as a dwarf. The reason is elegantly made clear during the performance. The evil Stepmother cursed the popular dwarfs to become the biggest dwarfs in the whole world. Opposite Igor Ondříček, Dušan Vítázek, Ján Jackuliak, Lukáš Vlček and Michal Matěj the actress Radka Coufalová's (Svetlana Slováková alternates) Snow White gave an impression of being truly tiny and ethereal. Another directorial 'joke' was the casting of the Stepmother. This often challenging role was played with great verve by Jan Apolenář and Milan Němec. Among the adult audience it was definitely the Stepmother who gained the greatest applause. For the children it was unquestionably the well-known 7th dwarf.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a theatrical gift for theatre-goers of all age categories. We wish this, the theatre's newest performance, a very long time on the repertoire - it would be well-deserved.
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" - a charming fairy-tale with a large dose of exaggeration!
Ondřej Doubrava 17. December 2008 zdroj Musical.cz
One of the tasks of servers that specialise in musicals is to publish fresh reviews, or what some would call critique. However, it is sometimes very hard for the reviewers because they occasionally fall so much in love with the performed work that they will forgive it all its little flaws and simply enjoy themselves for two hours without restraint. It is hard to say how the reviewers of daily newspapers deal with this issue, but perhaps it can be said that this is the case with the new, quite unexpected fairy-tale hit for the whole family, the musical "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" under the direction of Stano Slovák at Brno City Theatre! It was seen at the public rehearsal and also the premiere on the 5th and 6th December; unfortunately, the cast was completely identical, with one small exception.
Fairy-tale stories can be adapted in many ways but in musicals the producers most often take a chronically well-known story line and simply add a few catchy and easy to remember melodies. "Snow White" contains all this and yet despite that, the music composer Karel Cón and three scenographers, Stano Slovák, Jan Šotkovský and Petr Štěpán approached it in a slightly different way and thus took the wind out of the reviewers' sails. They used the main plot and characters but wrapped them in a mass of exaggeration, kilograms of witty situations all tastefully seasoned with somewhat black humour, sweetened with tons of ideas, several original plot changes (this time the Stepmother was endowed with very powerful spells)… and so we cannot tell you more about the plot (but we believe that we are read by educated people who know the basic motifs well), as any revealed moment would slightly diminish the experience from the performance and if the avalanche of revelations were given a free hand, it would be perhaps hard to stop.
There are a great deal of good ideas in this production, and the whole team takes part in them, i.e. not only the author of the music (whom we are going to talk about below), the director and the scriptwriters but definitely also the scenographer Jaroslav Milfajt.. The set for "Snow White" is absolutely magical; from the beginning you'll find yourself in an environment which is very similar to the artistic style from the first Walt Disney films and subsequently you will be amazed by the concept of the queen's mirror (it even sings in two voices), and when the house of the dwarfs appears in the otherwise scary forest, everything becomes clear - it is an absolutely beautiful fairy-tale, suitable really for anyone, from the smallest (probably from three years of age) to grandmothers and grandfathers. They managed to be successful in attaining the grail of entertaining everybody equally; the individual scenes of the piece are brilliantly balanced as far as this aspect is concerned.
Jan Apolenář hits the jackpot; he has added another unforgettable role to his already plentiful list. His Stepmother is not a cheap copy of a transvestite, but on the contrary is a charismatic woman in the right sense of the word, a self-confident WOMAN, but not a very successful one. But there is a logical link, when such a woman is played by a man, who is in addition a singer whose voice really ranges from bass up to tenor, initiating endless laughter mainly (but not only) from children, as well as a bit of fear, mixed just right in the ratio 80:20 in favour of laughter. On top of that, you will see something new from him as he dances at the end of the performance - those who watch his career more closely know that he hasn't had much opportunity in this important area of musical acting up to now. However, it can be said that his new role has made up for this lack most plentifully. And there is a lot to watch.
Those acting in the roles of the dwarfs probably decided that they wouldn't settle for remaining in anyone's shade and would rather form an excellent team, although, for example both Igor Ondříček's Doc or Vojtěch Blahuta's Dopey could claim they were the leader of the bunch, and Dušan Vitázek as Grumpy could have similar ambitions. However, their combined effort at pulling together is excellent. The little men (sorry, men, in fact) are not only witty but thanks to Hana Kratochvilová-Josefiová's inventive choreography they can also enjoy themselves thoroughly! A quote from the play could be cited as a suitable evaluation of their performance: "Well done, boys!!!"
Other characters are also good, for example Petr Štěpán as the Huntsman and also at the beginning as Father. He uses his moments fully, even though his role is the most serious one in the whole production and on top of that, his sad blues song about the relativity of steps to years suits him immensely. Robert Jícha is an absolutely perfect prince who is both naïve as well as brave and has a sense of justice. It can be seen that each individual enjoys his or her time on the stage, and this is fully transferred to the auditorium.
Karel Cón (the author of the music e.g. for the sweet fairytale "The Princess with a Golden Bow") has produced a score that can be simply characterized as multi-genre, from a charming lullaby, through blues and samba, from compositions inspired by the musical "Painted on Glass" up to rock, and all this with an almost impossibly natural and automatically accepted manner.
Another thing needs to be mentioned in relation to the musical side. Even though it may not seem to be the case, a new trend in the genre area has probably entered the Czech Republic. It can be called for example a "quotational" musical. Explanation: another level of humour is hidden in the work which is based on the fact that not all of the phrases spoken will be appreciated by the average spectator, but a specialist will enjoy them. "The Good Soldier Svejk" basically relied on quotation of folk music and national anthems. And how does "Snow White" work with quotes? It serves spectators directly with the most famous works, such as "Jesus Christ Superstar" (but do not expect the famous fanfares) and "Phantom of the Opera" (here expect the most famous motif), but it is done in such a way that it seems to be there only "unintentionally" and out of nowhere. Operetta lovers will also find something: the cancan from "Orpheus in the Underworld" is there in full, and provided with a catchy text to boot! The creators also gave thanks to Mr. Offenbach in the programme; indeed, it would be hard to find a more catchy melody in the world of music scores.
Logically, "Snow White" also has a few flaws but as it manages to hide them almost perfectly - all thanks to the involvement of the ensemble - you almost won't notice them. Why should it matter that the rhymes of the songs are a bit on the simple side (at least they will be comprehensible and easy to remember for the children and it is possible that you will remember the melodies from almost the whole production on second viewing), and that the scene showing Snow White in the little house with the Stepmother and her malicious presents repeats itself in a practically unchanged format three times one after another. However, it isn't such a big deal thanks to the personal input of the actors; moreover, you will happily take what is perhaps the greatest hit of the production - the song " Kačaba" - home in your heads after so many repetitions.
You others will probably forgive me that this article is not, in fact, a critical review but on the contrary, it is a helping of great praise even though this, unlike its on-first-hearing negatively sounding colleague, is not yet an official literary genre. It doesn't matter: "Snow White" fully deserves the praise. The atmosphere during the premiere (as well as during the public rehearsal) was totally spontaneous, simply really fairy-tale like, which shows that the performance had the right effect. And this is what is important above all. Let's hope that the reporters also enjoyed "Snow White" along with the children and will accord it deserved appreciation; it is quite a breakthrough performance for the "show for the whole family" genre.
An original family spectacle with a somewhat confusing title…
Pavel Košatka 17. December 2008 zdroj Musical.cz
… Why with a confusing title? In my opinion, this musical fairy-tale comedy should be called "The Stepmother and the Seven Dwarfs". As Ondra has already mentioned in his evaluation of "Snow White'', the authors have made the heroine almost a secondary figure. It is a shame in a way that Radka Coufalová's full potential wasn't used, but on the other hand, space would have had to be taken away from the perfect Jan Apolenář who played the role of the Stepmother, and this would be a real shame, too.
At the first sight, the idea of a male actor as the cruel queen is somewhat crazy but there was no doubt that it was a good idea once Jan Apolenář had revealed his full acting and singing ability up on stage. In fact, it contributes to the comedy of the whole work, the cruel exclamations of Stepmother sound rather comic, especially when they are complemented with graceful dance numbers. The "male Stepmother" has deservedly grabbed a large part of the performance and he got the most applause at the end; despite the negativity of the character, he appealed to the majority of child spectators.
This musical is mainly for children - the catchy and varied music (which is full of references - a sharp-eared listener will find parts from Jesus Christ Superstar or The Phantom of the Opera within it, and also the cancan may be heard), nice scenography, fairy-tale costumes and mainly all of the seven dwarfs all contribute to this. The dwarfs are playful, witty, high-spirited… simply ideal characters for children. And when all the seven dwarfs run into the auditorium and the children can shake hands with their heroes, it is definitely a great experience for them. However, adults and fans of musical theatre will also be entertained.
I was also pleased by the singing performance, I have already mentioned Jan Apolenář but I would also like to draw your attention to the double voice of the magic mirror - Marta Prokopová and Petr Šmiřák. Traditionally, Robert Jícha (the prince) also performed excellently as did Rastislav Gajdoš (gamekeeper). There was no space for solo performances from the dwarfs and they sang most parts together - and well! The acting performance of Alan Novotný in the role of Dopey can be highlighted in their team.
And the overall impression? Great! Even though I don't particularly like family musicals, I was entertained, similarly as was everyone else in the whole, full auditorium of the Music Theatre of Brno City Theatre. Snow White doesn't need to be ashamed of anything, only a few minor flaws could be found. So if you live near Brno and have children, you certainly shouldn't hesitate to head for the next performance. And if you like a good quality and original musical performance, you definitely shouldn't miss Snow White - you definitely won't leave disappointed!
Snow White comes from snow and therefore goes with Christmas
Jiří P. Kříž 12. December 2008 zdroj Právo
Small and big spectators alike will be excited by the good, hard-working dwarfs, even though they are the victims of their environment
Karel Cón, Stanislav Slovák, Jan Šotkovský and Petr Štěpán have produced for the lovers of this genre a crazy musical fairy-tale for the whole family.
And where else than at the Music Stage of Brno City Theatre, whose ensemble has been successful in Vienna with Lloyd-Webber and Rice's Joseph and The Technicolor Dream Coat, despite all jealous doubters.
That particular production has already been performed in Brno for spectators small and large for several seasons. And because The Garden of Miracles is finishing now, Brno City Theatre has Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as a present for children. Slovák is a skilled learner - after the somewhat unnecessarily Broadway-ish Painted On Glass about Jánošík, his new work aims towards perfection.
The queen is all hairy
Cón is not afraid to quote the music from the Walt Disney's original film from the year 1937, that is, from the time when real fairy-tales still used to be created in that studio. For example, when the dwarfs begin singing the irreplaceable march of the dwarfs "Heigh-ho Heigh-ho", one of them immediately shouts at the singers: Don't drag those old songs in here!
Only complete dunces would need me to explain what Snow White is about and they do not come to the theatre anyway.
Snow White in Brno is charming! Beautiful, graceful and freed by the Prince (Robert Jícha or Aleš Slanina). You wouldn't find a more credible Snow White than Radka Coufalová in the whole world at this moment. Well, perhaps maybe Svetlana Slováková, but she didn't act in the premiere. And only the mirror of the Stepmother, not a reviewer, can tell who is the most beautiful.
By the way - the Queen/Stepmother - what a performance! I don't know about Milan Němec but Jan Apolenář acted her absolutely realistically. I thought the Stepmother was a woman for a long time.
However, there were two pieces of litmus paper sitting next to me, twins - first-grade pupils Šárka and Klárka. Apolenář didn't manage to trick them. "She has hair on her chest," they cried after spying it in the décolletage of the witch's red dress. Could they perhaps be future reviewers?!
The twins held on
And the dwarfs! Well, they were a bit oversized. The queen cursed them to live in our ecosystem, or so it was said in the stream of dialogue. In the premiere they were played by Ondříček, Vitázek, Jackuliak, Vlček, Przebinda, Matěj and Blahuta - in other words, most of the male stars of this theatre ensemble. The humour of the fairy-tale stands on their being silly, their digging and on their ingeniousness and good-heartedness…
So, let's not be surprised that the curse will be lifted in the end, in contrast with our situation, having to live with Stepfather Santa (Vaclav) Klaus on his blue planet, even though we would prefer to see the good old green one. The dwarfs will shrink nicely back to their original size. Go and see how this happens. And take the children.
The two pieces of litmus paper held on until ten, and even managed the meeting after the premiere. They said no to ham, cheese and cakes but ate up all the oranges which were cut into slices, and then fell asleep in the car. Just as we were passing Lužánky.
How it was with Snow White
Simona Polcarová 11. December 2008 zdroj Brněnský týdeník
Young actors from Brno City Theatre approached the classic work of the Brothers Grimm in a slightly different way, and with characteristic humour. A graceful Snow White was created, with oversized dwarfs and a lot of catchy melodies, including the popular cancan. The director Stano Slovák, as well as his colleagues Jan Šotkovský and Petr Štěpán, who contributed to the libretto and song texts, understood well that the best has already been written and composed and that therefore there is no need to invent miracles and stun with noble ideas.
Basically, they took the well-proven original, mixed in a drop of soft irony and exaggeration plus a joke here and there, and entertained the audience excellently. Their intention came off very well. The evil stepmother queen is both demonic and comical at the same time, thanks to the clever choice of a male character (this part is shared by Jan Apolenář and Milan Němec). Snow White (Radka Coufalová) remains cutely naïve and this goes well with the dwarfs, even though their size is a few numbers larger than the average. Their height has a point in this performance, Karel Cón's melodies are easy to remember and the texts rhyme nicely, which suits the child spectators and doesn't offend the adult ones. Another strong point of the musical Snow White is the pure and obvious joy with which the ensemble approached the fairy-tale.
Snow White at Brno City Theatre's Music Stage
Peter Stoličný 8. December 2008 zdroj www.opereta-muzikal.cz
Before I start writing about anything, I'll have a look on Google on the internet to see what has been written about this subject of interest. A thing of genius, this Google. I don't know how I managed to live without this collection of data before…
And so I entered the words: Children's musical. And I found very little there. Really very little. The makers of musical productions for children are mainly small associations, regional theatres, religious groups and amateur enthusiasts. However, it is as clear as daylight that today's small spectators will be our future adult spectators. And that it is a classic fairy-tale with humour, music and songs which can interest and entertain children. Puppeteers, who luckily fill the gap that is 'performances for children' in theatre programmes, know it. These days, they give children what is needed more and more often via so-called alternative theatre rather than by pure marionette performances (puppets, wayangs, marionettes) - an entertaining form of musical theatre. And what about big stone theatres? They make productions for a young audience but let's admit that it is not by far with such intensity as children would deserve. It is also due to the economic resources of the theatre. A "big fairy-tale" requires demanding costumes and scenery, and these costs won't make it worthwhile for the money collected from ticket sales. It needs to be taken into account that so called family performances are viewed by parents with children and it would not be possible for most families if they had to pay one or two thousand for three or four tickets. They would rather go and see Disney in a multi-screen cinema…
Brno City Theatre has such a good reputation that it doesn't have to be afraid of performing even such family performances. They have proved this already with the first narrative fairy-tale, The Garden of Miracles (by the well-known authorial duo Moša and Merta). The performance is always sold out, both parents and children are excited. However, this time, Brno City Theatre chose an even more daring path. They allowed Petr Štěpán (actor), Jan Šotkovský (dramaturgist) and Stano Slovák (actor, director) to make the production. These are, in fact, artists who are at the beginning of their journey. Stano Slovák is, of course, an experienced musical actor, one of the most distinct characters of the Music Stage, but this is his debut as an author and only his second directorial role, after Painted on Glass. Similar things can be said about Petr Štěpán… We saw him in the role of Nikola Šuhaj or Porthos in The Three Musketeers but he is a novice as the co-author of a theatre fairy-tale. The dramaturgist Šotkovský, a friend from their generation, has done quite a lot of dramaturgical work before, and in the amateur Buranteatr Brno he has also tried authorial work, acting and direction. However, the only really experienced creator here is Karel Cón, a devoted musician. As early as in 1980 he composed music for the puppet musical The Devil, Káča and the Lambs, which was followed by several other, mainly comedy musicals which were performed in several places around the Czech Republic. Recently, he has caught people's interest with his music for the TV fairy-tale, "O princezně se zlatým lukem" (About a Princess with a Golden Bow) or the music for the fairy-tale Puss in Boots, staged by the Dialog theatre studio in Brno. Cón is good at children's productions and he is masterful at finding a way to please child spectators.
The subject of this current musical fairy-tale is a well-known story by the brothers Grimm, although this tale actually appeared among the Czechs some time before in Dobrovský's work, and Snow White was also narrated by Božena Němcová and by Pavol Dobšinský in Slovakia. However, the fairy-tale has gained the most popularity since its film version was created by the Walt Disney cartoon studio in 1937. It was the first full-length animated cartoon. Disney understood that the right kind of target is a "family performance". Also, it was the first fairy-tale with music which was called a musical, and the first animated cartoon film to be awarded an Oscar.
After this film it is hard to compose music which doesn't feature the expected "Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work we go!" In fact, it is generally very hard after a famous and well-known film production - which has, after all, endless possibilities for artistic expression - to produce the same thing on a theatre stage in an interesting way. It needs to be added, though, that this attempt was successful!
The basic key to the authorial and directorial attitude was humour. It was precisely thanks to this small yet elaborate spell that the authors managed to catch the interest of both children and adults. A natural and functional "fairytaleness" (Jaroslav Milfajt's set, Andrea Kučerová's costumes) pleased as well as mildly scared the children and simultaneously made the parents laugh (which was perhaps hard for the children to understand). The evil queen was a man (Jan Apolenář alternating with Michal Němec) dressed as a woman, with transvestite gestures that borrowed their comicity, from the way of walking to the tremulous voice, partially from the comedy Some Like it Hot. The bad queen was often very funny. Similarly charming were the infantile dwarfs. So that they were believable, the authors added an extra spell by the bad queen to Grimm's fairy-tale. In her innate evil, she enlarged them to look like adult humans. That's why they go mining underground in little clothes and shoes into which they can't fit any more. The problem with their stage size was solved immediately, moreover with a nice comic effect.
I won't mention the actors and their performances further, I would have to name all of them and praise them. As is a custom at this theatre, all of them act with immense enthusiasm and the credibility (for children) and witty exaggeration (for adults) are mixed well together by the director. "Put your hands on the duvet!" Snow White orders the dwarves which are lying down. And the children have no idea why the adults are laughing. Does it matter? Not at all. Laughter is contagious.
As it was a musical comedy, Karel Cón's music needs to be mentioned. There are no substantial objections to his musical inventions, instrumentation and the production of his intelligent music. His blues, like his rock, pop and Latin-American rhythms, were all wisely blended together to produce moods even the children could interpret. Music is a good foundation stone of the production. It is a shame, though, that some of the nice themes were not repeated in such a way that they "got under one's skin". And when the composer chose Offenbach's Galop (cancan) as a comic musical piece, the spectators realized what a genius this Offenbach was. We can but admire Cón for allowing such competition "into the house". The effect was great.
Cón's "song of the dwarfs" was a competitor to the American original. It might have been worth trying to cooperate more with the spectators and perhaps sing the song with them. And there were more such places in the production where such "cooperation" with the audience wouldn't have done any harm. A performance for children is an invitation to a dialogue. The director felt it as well and "released" the dwarfs into the auditorium from time to time.
Snow White on the Music Stage of Brno City Theatre is a good and needed performance. If we view the performance as a whole, it was a fine, consistent performance which will serve its purpose: to entertain both children and adults in an intelligent way - and so prevent any shortage of theatre spectators in the future. It will survive the competition from film and TV series because a well-produced theatre performance is eternal.
Peter Stoličný, www.opereta-muzikál.cz, 8. 12. 2008