Long before The Lion King and Mary Poppins trod the Broadway boards, Disney made a New York City stage appearance in the form of a stage version of White Live! produced by Disney theme park veteran and Disney Legend Robert F. Jani. This lavish production at Radio City Music Hall retold the Snow White story with live actors, as well as new story material (for example, Snow White’s father the King introducing her evil stepmother to his kingdom). In addition to the well-loved songs from the film classic, this new version included four new tunes, such as “Welcome to the Kingdom of Once Upon a Time” and “Will I Ever See Her Again?” with lyrics by Joe Cook and music by Jay Blackton, an Academy Award nominee for his scoring of the film version of Oklahoma! (1955).
Playing Snow White was Mary Jo Salerno, who was selected from more than 600 women who auditioned for the royal role in a nationwide search. Opening on October 18, 1979, this live Snow White left the “Showplace of the Nation” in November (so that the annual Christmas Spectacular could be presented at the Music Hall) for a national tour, the highlight of which was a VIP performance for President Jimmy Carter in Washington, D.C. The hit show then made a triumphant return in January 1980 to Radio City Music Hall before closing in March. Like Snow White herself, the show lived happily ever after. The stage musical was taped and cablecast as a Christmastime treat on HBO, after which it was released on videocassette and showcased on Disney Channel in 1987. Many Disney fans have fond memories of this production, which faithfully translated the original film into a stage show, even while expanding its scope and story. (The only misstep was the decision to have Dopey speak—he says “Good-bye” to the departing princess—but even this unfortunate choice could not spoil the glow of the happy ending.)
Disneyland Park was host to its own elaborate stage retelling of Walt’s filmic fairy tale when Snow White—An Enchanting Musical debuted on February 22, 2004. “Our Snow White theatrical production is the most elaborate musical ever produced at Disneyland,” reported Matt Ouimet, then-president of Disneyland Resort, “continuing to build on Walt Disney’s vision of offering innovative and magical entertainment for our guests.”
The scenery included such intricate set pieces as the Queen’s gothic castle and the quaint home of the Seven Dwarfs, which rotated to reveal both interior and exterior scenes. “The Dwarf’s cottage is one of the largest moving pieces of scenery we’ve ever had sitting on this stage,” said technical director KC Wilkerson. ”It’s 30-feet wide, 16-feet deep, 20-feet high, weighs just over five tons.” One of the best-remembered aspects of this stage spectacle was the Magic Mirror, voiced by Patrick Stewart (aka Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation). Michael Curry, who co-designed the masks and puppets of The Lion King Broadway musical, created the incredible articulated glass-like mask of the Magic Mirror. Attending the premiere of this Disneyland show were character designer Joe Grant and animator Frank Thomas, both of who helped create the original 1937 animated film.
The House Snow White Built | The Snow White Reunion | Snow White on Stage | A Smile and a Song | Who’s the Fairest Star of All? | Snow White at Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom |
Now Don’t Tell Me Who You Are—Let Me Guess | Happily Ever After
Unveiled at a star-studded world premiere at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Hollywood on December 21, 1937, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been holding audiences spellbound with its enthralling characters, unforgettable music, and timelessly artful animation. Through 75 years of fairy-tale magic, this motion-picture masterpiece has inspired all sorts of honors, commemorations, and merriments. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art adding Snow White cels to its collection in 1938 and the Magic Mirror “hosting” One Hour in Wonderland, Disney’s very first television special, in 1950, to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train scheduled to open at the New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World Resort in 2014, Walt’s original princess is never far from the heart of Disney.
By D23: The Official Disney Fan Club’s Jim Fanning