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Review of “Alice in Wonderland” by Prana Productions

by Ceci LeBeau
November 4, 2017

The 85 children in this amazing cast brought new life to Lewis Carroll’s social satire of 1800’s England.

Review of “Alice in Wonderland” by Prana Productions

When the Disney studios released “Alice in Wonderland” in 1951, it was a financial disappointment. Battling directors and a lack of warmth in the character of Alice were said to be its downfall. But the Prana Production’s version I saw Saturday October 28 had neither of these problems.

The main character here was played artfully by three girls: Small Alice, by Mia McGann, a Medium Alice by Danielle Cummings and Tall Alice by Libby Stott. When Alice had a magic cookie or drink, and grew to great proportions or shrank to three inches tall, one girl would spin off stage and then her counterpart would spin on. This seamless conversion gave the unified Alice continuity and the personal warmth of all three actresses.

The 85 children in this amazing cast brought new life to Lewis Carroll’s social satire of 1800’s England. In this new junior version, the gruesome oyster scene with the walrus and the carpenter was replaced by adorable rock lobsters. The obvious drug references in the hookah smoking caterpillar and mushrooms were replaced by a six handed rock star who makes a girl faint when she is lucky enough to see him up close. He was played admirably by Teddy Peters.

The show overflowed with contemporary, comic references. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, often invoked in political cartoons, stole laugh after laugh with their vaudevillian charm.(Megan Keavaney and Sienna Flotta.)They complained of “an identity crisis.” The “Golden Afternoon” flower sequence, with a dazzling array of sequined beauties, featured girls with a lot more sass than in the Disney film. Ruffian boys provided a good laugh with character Poison Ivy, played by Zach Fondo. The doorknob, as quipped by Carina Brown, smartly insisted “Leggo my schnozzola!” The Dodo became a proper British admiral (Carina Brown) with a clever nod to the HMS Pinafore.

The White Rabbit, dashingly portrayed by Clancy Harrington, invoked an “ I Love Lucy” routine - “Honey, I’m home” - and then insisted Alice’s name was Mary Ann, slipping in references to Ginger and Gilligan’s Island. The rousing full cast “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da” brought the curtain down on the first act. It was borrowed from Disney’s movie “Song of the South,” but here given a more syncopated beat which felt like a rap song. The Butterfly was getting “in touch with his inner fabulosity.” Little rabbits adorable chimed in “Asta la vista, baby!”

The Cheshire Cat was actually three in one. The part was played with feline wit by Jackson Huckins, Nora Keavaney and Claudia McMahon. This way the striped actors could stretch and arch like a real cat, with great flexibility and grace. In the Mad Hatter and March Hare’s famous unbirthday party ( Erin Belger and Abby Eppinger) the fuzzy, wacky hats delighted as guests marched around the table. The psychedelic get ups and sunglasses gave it a sixties vibe. Comically, a Dormouse (Abigail Halstead) hid behind a tiny teapot, a detail immortalized in Disneyworld in the Flying Teacups ride.


                                                                                       (The three Alices)

In mocking the absolute rule and absolute corruption of royalty, Summer O’Sullivan’s Queen of Hearts was a striking red tyrant. Her hair was even crafted to suggest a playing card heart. The detail in costuming, here as throughout the play, was stunning. When the army of cards march and sing about “Painting the Roses Red,” I could see from the second row that every paintbrush in their hands was actually tinged with red. The Queen’s attendants, including the King, coddled and appeased her with charm. One of them, Sadie Plotkin, as Knave of Hearts, even gave a spot-on British accent.

This familiar tale happily bounced from one inanity to another. Chess was updated to Simon Says, with a game show “lightening round.” “Alice doesn’t live here anymore” was aptly quoted. This new, hip version culminated in a full cast reprise of the rap “Zip” song. Instead of episodes which competed to be the most outrageous, this show bubbled and fizzed along. It gave one the pleasing sensation of having been “down the rabbit hole” for an hour.

Since I attended the final production, I got to see the many teenagers working back and off stage brought to the front for recognition by the acting youngsters. This boy-strong, huge cast and crew of 85, from grades K through 12, was a testament to the hard work of director Roberta Weiner and pianist Joanne Hines, and the many parent volunteers. A parent commented that the only time she had seen her daughter as excited as she was about being in a Prana show was at Christmas. A high compliment indeed.

Ceci LeBeau
October 30, 2017

 

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