Picayune on Stage presents: Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, JR.

Published 12:14 am Sunday, July 25, 2010

Based on the 1951 Disney “Alice in Wonderland” and the novels by Lewis Carroll, which inspired the original Disney movie; David Sympatico has adapted both to give us “Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, JR.”

Directors Tara Poolson and Ginger Schmidt have assembled a very talented cast of young actors to bring Sympatico’s updated vision to life in the Picayune on Stage Production.

The production, which is performed at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, on Goodyear Boulevard, covers Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, in a fast paced, visually stimulating and energetic manner. From start to finish, there are a wide variety of characters coming on and going off stage. Alice herself has three versions, played by Cady Galloway, Elmhear Davis and Earlie Davis, who effectively demonstrate her transformations. 

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The play addresses relevant, age specific topics in an entertaining manner.

One of the strengths of this production lie in the fact that both Directors and Donna Aguilard’s Costume Department have done an incredible job in the casting and costuming of this talented ensemble. The set design and lighting are quite effective and truly let the cast shine in their performance. This is not a big budget production, but that is not what you notice, as you absorb the world that this cast draws you into. The cast of characters is beautifully enhanced by the Octopi, Jellyfish, waves, Grass, Cards, Flamingos, Small Flowers, Butterflies, Ladybugs, Rock Lobsters and Mushrooms.

Another strength is that the play translates well to all ages. It is family friendly and touches on relevant topics like identity, bullies, transformation through self discovery, and appreciating differences.

Magic happens when the cast responds to each other. On Review Night, Brittany Ollie began belting out her solo and dancing around the stage, and for that moment, it seemed that the cast just had a great time. The energy was contagious and those watching really felt the joy in that moment.

Alice’s transformation is more than just in her various sizes. You get a sense that she discovers herself on a deeper level. With the help of a three part Caterpillar, played by Brittani Ollie, Megan Brown, and Susie Baxter, Alice learns to define herself and stand up for herself.  A wise- cracking Cheshire Cat, played by Felicia Stockstill, McKenzie Martz, and Hattie Sumrow, gives narrative dialogue through out the performance.

The White Rabbit, skillfully played by Hunter Williams, is absolutely twitchy as he runs back and forth, across the stage, lamenting his tardiness for an important date. His character is most memorable in a scene with the Mad Hatter, played by Austin Williams, who maniacally operates on the White Rabbit’s watch in the middle of the UN-Birthday Party being held. He does this with the able assistance of the March Hare, played by McKenzie Rigney.

The Queen of Hearts, played by Bethany Chavers, is amazingly effective in her witty portrayal of the Red Queen. So effective, that I briefly checked the children on stage for a reaction to her. They were as enthralled with her as the adults watching were.

The King of Hearts, played by Zeddie Guiterrez, balances the Queen’s character beautifully. He is charming and up to his part, it would be easy for the Queen’s strong character to overshadow him. This is not the case, and the pair compliment each other perfectly.

Jessica Zamsky as Tweedle Dee is perfectly timed in her argument with her counterpart, Tweedle Dum. Zamsky was a solo act for this performance and pulled it off like a professional. She is entertaining and memorable in her part and in the play.

Dodo Bird, played by Brandon Keeney, is comic relief. Keeney embraces his role and is very entertaining in his scene where he holds a Caucus Race. This is one of the first scenes in Wonderland, JR. and really gives you an idea of what is to come.

The Girls of the Golden Afternoon, played by Lexi Guiterrez, Halley Wright, Katie Baxter, Gabbie Johnson and Victoria Matter, are the Wonderland version of “Mean Girls”. The group’s characters are elitist and effectively snobby to the character of Alice as they sashay across the stage. In the end, Alice stands up to them and learns to appreciate who she is for her own unique qualities.

This play is highly recommended with hopes that it is followed by another production very soon. Everyone involved is to be applauded for their contributions in bringing this production to Picayune.