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Based on the books “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and“Through the Looking-Glass” by Lewis Carroll.
On the happy summer day of July 4, 1862, Charles Dodgson took Alice Liddell and her two sisters Lorna and Edith on a fateful boat trip along the Thames. The children asked him for a story full of “nonsense.” And so Charles began a tale about a girl named Alice who follows a waistcoat-wearing white rabbit down a wondrous rabbit hole. He would eventually refine that story and publish it in book form under the pen name Lewis Carroll – an author whose works, nonsense or not, would soon be quoted more than any other save Shakespeare and the Bible.
The stories and its iconic characters such as the crazy, tea-partying Mad Hatter, the mysterious and disappearing/reappearing Cheshire Cat, and the head-hunting Queen of Hearts would also inspire the creation of many other fantasies to come, including this quirky stage adaptation by Desert Stages Theatre’s co-founder Gerry Cullity.
Desert Stages Theatre helps take us down the rabbit hole with a great-looking set and wall painting designed by Paul Filan,Lindsey Ihrig, and the director, Lisa Barton. The in-the-round theater space features a pink and purple chessboard stage centered by a diamond-shaped platform, the upper corners include a house, a bird’s nest, and the top of a mushroom, while the painted walls drop us into the forests and flowers of Wonderland. Kristin Barton andStephanie Yampolsky’s creative costumes complement the show’s fun and funky tone.
You wouldn’t have wanted to be late to the production’s final Saturday night, which was filled with a full house. The show is a quick one at just over an hour, and the audience brimming with young kids was clearly caught up in the fantasy and crazy characters.
The show has four different casts, with this night having Natasha Milliganis Alice, her vocals sterling and her personality a nice blend of curiosity, wonder, and humor as she runs into the many locals. These include Erin Tarkington as a completely lovable Cheshire Cat with an irrepressible grin and charisma. Matthew Villarreal has a great Mad Hatter voice and, along with Tabitha Momeyer as the March Hare and little Josephine Raia as the Dormouse, serve up a whimsically mad tea party. Jaxon Wilcox and Allie Rose are a hoot as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum who help take us through the tale of the Walrus (Style Ranger) and the Carpenter (Kellyn Broerman). Haley Hanni gets the madness rolling as the neurotic White Rabbit, Zoe Campbell is a cool Caterpillar, while reigning over the land is a memorable couple of Austin Kaye as the eager-to-please King of Hearts and Shilah Groff as his amusingly easy-to-rile Queen of Hearts.
And that’s all just a small sampling of the countless eccentric characters in this fast-moving trip through Wonderland. The entire cast keeps things zany and hip and high energy throughout the show and its multiple musical numbers, dancing to Erin Tarkington and Cate Carlino’s entertaining choreography set the eclectic mix of music by Gerry Cullity.
Performed August 22 – September 21, 2014
Photos by Mick Milligan
National Youth Arts