‘Alice in Wonderland’ cast and crew discovered what was in the rabbit hole
May 12, 2015
Six months ago, Egyptian Theatre’s YouTheatre director Jamie Wilcox contacted Mary Anderson-Bailey to see what she would be interested in directing for the spring production at the Egyptian Theatre.
The two remembered that there weren’t a lot of boys who auditioned in the past few years.
"So, we looked for a show that we could do if we were to end up with an all-girl cast," Anderson-Bailey said during an interview with The Park Record. "As we looked at publishers, ‘Alice in Wonderland Jr.’ popped up and I thought this was one of the shows in the musical-theater canon that we could get away with casting all women if we had to.
"The second thought was we haven’t done anything like this before," she said. "Luckily we ended up with four boys in our cast, which made it more fun."
YouTheatre will present "Alice in Wonderland Jr." at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend and the musical is based on the 1951 Disney film, according to Anderson-Bailey.
"They took the animated film version and put it into a stage form. In doing so, they cut down the time limit, took out some scenes and changed some things to make it conducive for a 90-minute show," she said.
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In approaching the production, Anderson-Bailey wanted to pay homage to Disney, but also wanted to pay homage to [author] Lewis Carroll and some of the ideas for his characters.
"When I delved into the script itself, I found there were quite a few things that have changed even from the film as I remembered it," she said. "I was left with the conundrum of whether or not to go completely Disney on the audience with those iconic characters, iconic colors and costuming, or to use this as an opportunity to take some artistic license."
As she discussed the script with Wilcox and her designers, Anderson-Bailey decided that the script and the score paid enough homage to Disney in a way that allowed her some freedom and flexibility.
So, she took some elements out of Lewis Carroll’s books and some other original productions and came up with her own ideas.
"Our production is framed around who Alice is, and when the caterpillar asks Alice, ‘Who are you?’ that becomes the central theme of the show," Anderson-Bailey explained. "Alice is caught between wanting to stay a kid and having to veer into adolescence and doesn’t want to quite do it."
That theme resonated with the age groups that are presenting this show.
"Our youngest is 11 and our oldest is either 13 or 14," Anderson-Bailey said. "This script and production is telling them that it’s OK to be who they are and it’s OK to transition into adulthood, but that they don’t have to change who they are. And as we talked with the kids about this theme, it was amazing how many of them latched onto it throughout the show."
In addition to the ‘Who are you’ theme, there was another theme that stuck out in the libretto.
"Alice even says it in one of the lyrics that ‘books are boring and I’d rather live my life exploring,’" Anderson-Bailey said. "So, I had to figure out how I was going to take this world of imagination that Alice has created and translate that into what we were going to put on stage.
"Set designer, J. Michael Bailey, who happens to be married to me, created all the projections for the show, and decided to do some original illustrations," she said. "He has spent hours and hours drawing various scenes by hand and then takes those images and paints them with watercolors. These are then turned into digital images that will become projected backdrops for the show."
Costume designer Lucie Adler also had some ideas that worked well.
"She asked how much freedom she would have and I told her to roll with whatever had been pulling at her while reading the script," Anderson-Bailey said.
Adler latched on to the scene where Alice, played by CoCo Beerwald, falls asleep while listening to a history lesson given by Mathilda, portrayed by McKenzie Adams.
"Since Alice falls asleep during a history lesson, we decided to give the costumes a historical flavor," Anderson-Bailey said. "Our Queen of Hearts is very much Queen Victoria with the big girth and big collar and things like that."
The costumes also take some liberties with the characters as well.
"For example, the Mad Hatter is your typical mad hatter, but the hat is fully constructed of cards, which links him back to Queen," she said. "In fact, all of these characters link back to Queen, and that’s how we came up with the design concept."
As with each YouTheatre production, the cast and technical crew are comprised of students.
"This is one of the fundamentals of the program that has grown over the years," Anderson-Bailey said. "We have tech crew that have constructed 90 percent of the props and sets. They help with costumes and makeup and help running spotlights and serve as stage manager.
"These kids are learning responsibility, problem solving and different creative avenues they might not otherwise," she explained. "We also create a sense of family that they latch onto. Many of these kids don’t see each other at school because they come from all over the county. This is a great way to express themselves, but also cheer each other on and be a team player."
Egyptian Theatre’s YouTheatre program will present "Alice in Wonderland Jr." at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., on Friday and Saturday, May 15 and 16, at 7 p.m. There will also be a 2 p.m. matinee on May 16. Tickets range from $9 to $14 and can be purchased by calling 435-649-9371 or by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.