When Magda Szubanski agreed to feature in Snow White – Winter Family Musical, Bonnie Lythgoe couldn’t contain her excitement as another part of her “dream team” fell into place.
“I was waiting with bated breath to find out if she’d do it. I can’t tell you how happy I am,” says Lythgoe, who was a judge on the first three series of So You Think You Can Dance Australia.
As revealed exclusively in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, Szubanski will play the Wicked Queen in Lythgoe’s contemporary pantomime spectacular (co-produced with David and Lisa Campbell’s Luckiest Productions), which has a short season at Sydney’s State Theatre in July.
“I haven’t done a panto before but I’ve always thought it would be terrific fun,” says Szubanski. “I did do A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Geoffrey Rush. That was rather like a panto and that was tremendous fun.”
“We haven’t really done a lot of (pantos) here but the tradition they have in Britain is so popular that I thought it would be a hoot to do. I don’t think you can underestimate how joyous these things are.”
Szubanski is looking forward to playing the villain. “One of the dwarves was the role I was after – but I think I’m too short to play a dwarf,” quips the much-loved actor/comedian.
Szubanski joins a celebrity-studded cast that includes the unlikely pairing of Kyle Sandilands and Sir Cliff Richard as the two (pre-recorded) faces of the Wicked Queen’s magic mirror. Naturally Sandilands is the nasty Mirror Disgruntled while Richard is the kindly Mirror Enchanted.
Jimmy Giggle (aka James Rees) from the ABC-TV children’s show Giggle and Hoot will play Snow White’s best friend Muddles and TV host Peter Everett, recently seen on Celebrity Apprentice, is her guardian Chambers.
The huntsman is played by Josh Adamson, an Australian performer currently living in the US, who performed in Lythgoe’s panto Aladdin and his Winter’s Wish at the Pasadena Playhouse in December. The role of the Prince is still to be announced – but is likely to be another name.
However, Lythgoe is offering a complete unknown the chance to land the starring role. Later this month, she and a team of celebrity judges will embark on a nationwide search for an actress, aged 16 to 26, to play Snow White. Pant O-Z Factor: The Search for Snow White, will be filmed and covered by the media.
The auditions will take place at Westfield shopping centres around the country (see details below), where the various judging panels will include people like Sonia Kruger, David Campbell, Matt Lee and Prinnie Stevens among others.
Lythgoe has been staging pantos in the US with great success for several years now and has already produced Snow White there with Neil Patrick Harris as the Magic Mirror. The shows combine the British panto tradition (“he’s behind you!”) with contemporary pop songs.
For the Sydney production she says she is looking for a leading lady who is “a little bit more feisty” than the Disney heroine “but a lovely, warm, friendly person.
“I’m looking for raw talent. I don’t want somebody who has been working for five years,” says Lythgoe. “She needs to sing well, to believe in the character she’s playing and be real. She also needs to move well but she doesn’t need to be a fantastic dancer.”
As well as playing the Wicked Queen, Szubanski has been enlisted as a co-writer to ensure the comedy speaks to Australian audiences and promises there will be “fun jokes for all the family”.
“It’s like the stuff we did with Fast Forward where there’s the colour and movement for the kids and then slightly more sophisticated (or not!) elements for the adults, so I think it will be really fun” says Szubanski. “My Mum who is 89 is saying, ‘Oh! I’ll pop up to Sydney to see that.’”
Pant O-Z Factor: The Search for Snow White auditions will be held at:
Saturday February 22, Westfield Marion, Adelaide
Saturday March 8 at Westfield Chermside, Brisbane
Sunday March 9 at Westfield Chermside, Brisbane
Saturday March 15, Westfield Southland, Melbourne
Sunday March 16, Westfield Knox, Melbourne
Saturday March 22, Westfield Parramatta, Sydney
Sunday March 23, Westfield Hurstville, Sydney
Auditions will be held from 9am to 5pm each day. People wanting to audition should arrive at 8am on the day to register. More information about the show can be found at Bonnie Lythgoe’s website http://www.bonnielythgoe.com
Snow White – Winter Family Musical plays at the State Theatre in Sydney, July 4 – 13. Bookings: http://www.tickemaster.com.au or 1300 139 588