BY SANDY STAGGS
While most school districts have moved up their school calendar to accommodate the epic solar eclipse that will leave a swath of darkness across the Upstate in a couple of weeks, Spartanburg District 6’s theatre department is getting an even earlier jump with its first official Summer Program production of “Disney’s Alice in Wonderland Jr.”
Assembled by director and Dorman theatre chair Ms. Leah Ruth Wren in a mere two weeks, “Alice in Wonderland” is a thoroughly entertaining musical adventure for the entire family. And this production is FREE for all, though donations are welcome!
Based on Lewis Carroll’s classic books and the Disney animated film, “Alice in Wonderland” is obviously not as polished as Dorman’s extravagant spring finales , which are typically in rehearsal for two months, but it clearly showcases the district’s wealth of dedicated talent (sixth grade to seniors) that will be featured in four shows this year.
The majority of the songs are taken directed from Disney’s 1951 animated movie with additional music and lyrics by Bryan Louiselle and David Simpatico (also book writer).
Young Sarah Wren gleefully plays Alice in a part so big she shares it with her classmates every time she drinks a potion or eats a magic cookie: Cassandra Rollins is small Alice and Makayla Greeley is tall Alice. And although the young ladies are physically similar in stature, this division does give parts to more youth.
And all of Carroll’s peculiar characters make an appearance.
Perrion Porter, who was amazing as the Donkey in “Shrek,” returns in this show with new big ears as the stage-hopping White Rabbit, who’s always running behind schedule and leaves a lasting impression “I’m Late!”
This version also splits up the role of the Cheshire Cat into a trio played by Jamya Crawford, Trinity McDowell and Jenna Williams.
The intelligence-challenged chubby twins Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (a riotous Antonio Martinez and Richardson Sturkey) get all tangled up in “How D’ye Do And Shake Hands.”
“The Golden Afternoon” gets The Supremes treatment by a bouquet of fresh flowers: Elizabeth Hill is Daisy, Leah Hall is Lily, Kristine Grizzle is Petunia, Hope Rollins is Rose and Isabella Crist is Violet.
Kate Yarbray sure knows how to make an entrance as the Caterpillar and a boisterous, hearty rendition of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” How this catchy tune from the 1946 “Song of the South” based on Uncle Remus stories got in this show, I have no answer. But it works.
The Mad Hatter (senior Alex Davis from last year’s “Fools” in classic Harpo Marx attire) and March Hare (Cameron Malone) have a frolicking tea party and play musical chairs in “The Unbirthday Song.”
Miss Rollins sheds her rose petals for hearts as the feisty, tempestuous Queen, whose favorite line is “Off with Her Head!” And she is fantastic in her “Simon Says” dual with Wren’s victorious Alice. And as the height-challenged King, Jake Leonard demonstrates his comedic talents with aplomb when he descends the stairs on his “knees.”
Also in this production in dual roles are youngster Jacob Groetsch as the Doorknob and 3 of Clubs, Ayslyn Gibbs as Dormouse and 2 of Clubs, and Tenaee Simpson as the Dodo Bird and Ace of Spades.
The choreography by drama teacher Blair Dawkins is festive and plentiful and particularly potent in the opening number and finale “Alice in Wonderland” and the infectious jazzy tempo of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”
Music direction is by Alvetta Smith, Assistant Director is Christen Roper, Costumes are by Kennedy Roberts and Technical Director is Troy McDowell.
“Alice in Wonderland, Jr.” runs Thursday – Saturday, August 10-12 at 7 p.m. and also at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Dorman High School College Career Fine Arts Center, 1050 Cavalier Way in Roebuck. FREE!