By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Wonderland, it seems, is the place to be this weekend.
The imaginary land comes to life on both sides of the Maumee as the Horizon Youth Theatre stages “Dorothy in Wonderland,” directed by Allison Kulbago, at the Otsego auditorium while the youth wing of the Waterville Playshop stages “Disney Alice in Wonderland Jr.,” directed by Shauna Newbold, in the Maumee Indoor Theater.
The HYT show runs Thursday, June 21, Friday, June 22, and Saturday, June 23 at 7 p.m. (click for information) “Alice” runs Friday, June 22, and Saturday, June 23 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 24 at 2:30 p.m. (click for information)
And, yes, that is Dorothy who lands in Wonderland courtesy, of course, of yet another tornado.
The conceit of the HYT production of the Brian Taylor script is that Dorothy (Terra Sloane) and her friends Scarecrow (Calista Wilkins), Tin Man (Thomas Long), the no longer Cowardly Lion (Nash Valantine) and Toto (Lila Stover) get blown into the middle of Alice’s adventure.
They have to draw on the virtues, courage for the lion, for example, bestowed on them by the Wizard to cope with this new strange place and its crazy characters.
Don’t fear, Alice (Sophia Nelson) is here as well as all the usual unusual Lewis Carroll characters.
That includes the Mad Hatter played by M Clifford as a hipster clown, making the most of a few scenes. The script offers plenty of cameos, with even chorus members having names, or at least numbers when they’re part of the deck of cards.
Dorothy is charged with defeating the queen of hearts played with haughty majesty by Isaac Douglass. Glinda (Ann Weaver) floats in from Oz to help. She and Alice share the most touching song “Just a Girl.”
Interesting that in a show with so much action, to the point of being antic, that this ballad and the first act closer “Will We Ever See Home Again” are the songs that register most.
Like “Dorothy,” “Disney Alice in Wonderland Jr.” uses recorded tracks instead of live music. In the case of the Disney musical, those are jazzy big band numbers that really drive the action.
With high concept costuming and make up, “Alice” hits the stage like the animated movie come to life with the neighborhood kids spliced in to play the characters.
Here the plot points of “Alice in Wonderland” are used to hopscotch from one musical number to the other. The script fits in 17 musical numbers in a quick-tempo one-hour run time. At times the pace seems like a dance recital with one bunch of colorfully attired kids after another shuffled on and off the stage.
Given the greater attention paid to the story we get not one, but three Alices. Macie Skiff plays the principal, while Abi Roth and the petite Addison Puffenberger play the title character as the various edibles shrink or expand her.
While most of the music is drawn from the animated film, others are borrowed, notably “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” from “Song of the South.” Here it’s Caterpillar (Brooke Dove) who sings it to cheer up small Alice.
That’s followed by the hilarity of the “Unbirthday Song,” performed by the Mad Hatter (Tyler Cowdey), March Hare (Shivali Subreenduth), the Cheshire Cat (Teagan Smith, Mia Pyle, Skyelar Raiti) and Alice.
Rowan Creps brings the appropriate sense of absurd nastiness to the Queen of Hearts.
The dance numbers manage to corral the cast of 50 into a swirl of color.
With four dozen in the HYT cast that means 100 or so young actors are getting a chance to visit Wonderland, and, more importantly, experience the real life excitement of being on stage.