Alice in Wonderland, a tale by Lewis Carroll, seems to me, to a story put forth by someone who is under the influence of some sort of hallucinogen. The little girl is bored, she follows this white rabbit down a hole, where she falls into this realm of fantastic and nearly-unbelievable characters, most of who wish to part the girl from her head. Fun stuff for kids, huh?
Van Wert Civic Theatre thinks so. Their production of this classic is taking place this weekend. Last night I attended the opening, and was excited to find out, pre-show, that twelve of the youngsters I had recently directed had been cast in the show. I vaguely knew the concept of the story, having once been a youth myself, so I was alive with anticipation.
The little girl, Alice, must shrink and grow depending upon what she eats and drinks, so her part must be played by two girls. The first, and largest, Alice, is played by Faith Maurer, a savvy veteran of many appearances on this stage. Her volume, presence, and energy gave a great boost to the story. This big Alice comes and goes at credible interludes. We always look forward to her “injections”. This is an actress to watch in future.
Little (small, tiny, miniscule, etc.) Alice is played by Debbie Jones, an audience favorite last winter in Miracle of 34th Street. She has a knack for the sarcastic lines. and is always into the scene. She has great potential. I did want her to punch the Queen of Hearts in the nose…
As the aforementioned Queen, Sidney Maller got the most out of her fancy costume, her intimidating height, and her best line, “Off with her head” This queen definitely does not provide us with love and kindness images. She is petulant, flies off the handle, and is a source of terror to her subjects. Ms. Maller is all over this scary/annoying figure.
The three young people I most wanted to see, Emily Gehl, Hattie Bouillon, and Hannah Bouillon delighted me. Gehl did a sparkling turn as the White Queen. She’s tall, she knows how to take stage, and she’s comfortable with who she is playing. She fired up a scene that had been slowing, a bit. Sisters Hattie and Hannah were Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, a couple of rogue characters, indeed. Their shared poem was a hoot, and an obvious audience favorite. They have obviously done the acting thing awhile, and their experience shows.
Many more performances were nicely done. As with all productions involving youth, some have a better grasp than others. One evidence of inexperience is the inability to take one’s time with speeches. This will happen. It’s just something you learn as you go. Amber Evans, director, slave-master, kid-wrangler and hair-tearer-outer, gets my great admiration for taking on such a project. The program lists 36 cast members. That’s about 30 more cast members than this writer would attempt in a youth show. She had to deal, also, with a difficult and complicated bunch of set changes. It slows the play down more than I like, but the multitude of “olders” she recruited, got everything done in good time. The funniest moment, was that one tree in a tiny pot, which would not stand up. The crowd loved it, and so did I.
Sorry I can’t mention everyone. They all appeared to be having a good time. It’s what I look for first. is the energy there? Are the actors “into” their scenes? It was all there for this show. You may check my impressions, and maybe my sense. Tonight at 7:30 and again tomorrow at 2pm. Enjoy!