English pantomime comes to Pasadena with a sitcom wink, a Top 40 backbeat and enough topical in-jokes to make Jon Stewart woozy in “A Snow White Christmas.” This larky take on the classic fairy tale, which opened at the Pasadena Playhouse on Wednesday, isn’t exactly high art, but that won’t hinder the enjoyment of undemanding audiences.
The brainchild of Lythgoe Family Productions -- son Kris wrote the script, mom Bonnie directs and paterfamilias Nigel turns up in a video cameo -- “Snow White” seeks to Americanize the essentials of the panto tradition. Current-day song hits intertwine with frolicsome choreography (courtesy of Spencer Liff) and shrewd participatory maneuvers that ensure the house’s involvement with the action.
Accordingly, we cheer the titular heroine (Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande, unaffected and soaring of vocals), boo the Wicked Queen of North Hollywood (“Dallas” fixture Charlene Tilton, channeling Mae West on Red Bull) and watch court jester Muddles (the lithe, improv-quick Jonathan Meza) benignly flirting with front-row girls and trading vaudeville shtick with Herman the Huntsman (big-voiced David Figlioli).
There’s a handsome swain, Prince Harry of Hancock Park (Curt Hansen, toothsome and tongue-in-cheek), seven Fat Tuesday-headed dwarfs, a show-stealing miniature pony named Blitzen (Little Man, destined for equine greatness) and, naturally, a Magic Mirror (a droll, video-projected Neil Patrick Harris, who has likely never had a cushier gig).