Review: “Alice in Wonderland”
By Sue Mellen
Written, adapted for the stage and directed by: Bragan Thomas, based on the book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, presented by The Academy of Performing Arts
What it’s about: The most overused word in the English language may well be timeless, but sometimes you just have to use it. So this is the timeless classic about Alice (Xevi Parker), a young British girl who longs to escape from her stuffy and staid environment (where a deck of cards and a boring book are her only diversions) and find adventure. Thanks to the guiding hand of the perennially late and always flustered White Rabbit (Alison Hyder), Alice takes a tumultuous tumble down a rabbit hole. There she finds her way into a mind-bending new reality populated by the likes of a hookah-smoking Caterpillar (Thomas, too), a shape-shifting Cheshire Cat (John O’Meara) who announces his friends call him “Catsanova,” a ghoulishly made-up Cook (Helen Carrier) and of course The Queen of Hearts (Lizzy Smythe). No foray into Wonderland would be complete without her shouts of “Off with their heads!”
See it or not: Thomas and company succeed in creating a production that is a fresh journey into a vibrantly colored dreamland. The writer/director’s vision is a pleasing combo of old and new, with the characters and lines you know by heart wrapped up in modern packaging. This is a piece that plays on two levels, so the kids will love seeing the familiar characters, and you’ll appreciate the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) humor.
Highlights: Thomas himself is fun as both the enigmatic Caterpillar and fabulously flamboyant King of Hearts. Then there’s a wonderful, campy bit where Bethany Long plays the March Hare as an old-style movie siren, complete with mink stole and Eastern European accent.
Fun fact: Carroll’s classic was originally published in November 1865, with the first theatrical version mounted in London’s West End in 1886. So it’s a real coup for a company to breathe new life into the piece.
Worth noting: The colors on stage virtually pop, with accoutrements like a brightly colored giant mushroom giving Alice’s dreamland a modern feel. (It’s a far cry from the old pencil sketches you remember from the book your mother read at bedtime.) And Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole is represented by swirling, psychedelic images cast onto a film screen. Brightly colored costumes, ingeniously designed by Karen Hepinstall and Alison Hyder, add to the vibrant feel of the set. For example, the outfits on the little Flamingos (Chiara and Gabby Castro, Meredith Sprague and Hannah Savin) have the feel of pink and sparkly cotton candy.
One more thing: The cast of both veteran performers and youngsters gives the piece a comfortable, family-friendly feel. It is well-suited to the Academy Playhouse, with its intimate arena-style theater.
If you go: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through May 1 at the Academy Playhouse, 120 Main St., Orleans; $30 adults, $20 under age 16; 508-202-1952, www.academyplayhouse.org.
Falmouth show tells tale as old as time
Falmouth Theatre Guild has a cast of two dozen for the return of the “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” musical, which features songs written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman for the 1991 animated film, plus new songs for the Tony Award-nominated stage show by Menken and Tim Rice.
The Falmouth production will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays April 29-May 15 at Highfield Theatre at 58 Highfield Drive, Falmouth. Tickets and information: https://falmouththeatreguild.org/.
Playing the title characters are Meghan (Cook) Richardson, who grew up in Bourne and performed with the guild as a teen, and husband Paul Richardson, who met while performing on the North Shore. The story follows small-town book-lover Belle, who tries to save her father and is captured and held captive by the Beast. But he is really a young prince who is, along with the people in his castle, trapped under the spell of an enchantress, with the curse only broken if he learns to love and be loved in return.
See Provincetown plays before they go to Ireland
Provincetown Dramatic Arts will perform one night of “Quickies: 4 Short Plays from Provincetown” before taking the works by Provincetown playwrights to the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival — the company’s seventh trip there.
Plays include “Madame Executrix,” by Doug Asher-Best; “The Black Eye,” by Jim Dalglish; “Look What You Made Me Do,” by Lynda Sturner; and “Pulse” by Margaret Van Sant. The acting company is Joe MacDougall, Vanessa Rose, Ellen Rubenstein, Tia Scalcione, and Tommy Walsh, plus Carol Sherry as technical staff.
A lot of theater to look forward to
At the end of the week, three plays will open for runs through much of May:
► Eventide Theatre Company will pay tribute to composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim with “Into the Woods,” the 1987 Tony Award-winning source for its “No One Is Alone” theme for the season. The musical, with book by James Lapine, intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales — from Cinderella to Little Red Riding Hood — and explores the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests.
Shows are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sunday May 5-22; https://www.eventidearts.org/.
► Just in time for summer, Barnstable Comedy Club will present the farce “Sandy Toes and Salty Kisses,” written by Michael Parker and Susan Parker, to close out its 100th season. The setting is the Lovers’ Landing Beach Hotel, a popular wedding destination inherited by a woman who finds out that her uncle, the hotel manager, is running a variety of illegal extracurricular activities on the property.
The show opens at 7:30 p.m. May 5, then performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through May 22 at the club building, 3171 Main St., Barnstable Village. Reservations: 508-362-6333. Information: www.BarnstableComedyClub.org.
► Cotuit Center for the Arts will present the area premiere of Miranda Jonte’s “St. Francis,” about a veterinarian who now runs a dog rescue in California who is about to be forced out by an incoming Starbucks and is desperate to find a new building for her no-kill shelter.
Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays in the Morton and Vivian Sigel Black Box Theater at the center, 4404 Route 28. Tickets and information: https://artsonthecape.org/explore/st-francis.
Contact Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @KathiSDCCT.
This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Cape Cod theater: Sondheim, Disney & ‘Alice’ among 6 shows on stages