The whimsical world of a Mad Hatter, an angry Queen of Hearts and one little girl’s dream will soon grace the stage of Fullwood Theater as Matthews Playhouse of the Performing Arts’ School of Theatre presents “Alice and Wonderland.”
Performances are set for Friday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 27 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m. and will take place at the theater, 100 McDowell St. in Matthews. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $9 for students and seniors.
Director June Bayless said the show is a musical retelling of the classic Lewis Carroll story. Unlike the Disney animated film, this stage adaptation features more dialogue, humor and story, Bayless said.
“It’s not the Disney version, which makes it exciting because most of the kids know only that,” she said. “These songs are not songs people will know before they come because it’s a different musical.”
All 65 cast members are students of Matthews Playhouse’s School of Theatre, a yearlong program that teaches young performers the ins and outs of acting, dancing and singing in plays and musicals. Students, ages 6 to 17, begin taking classes in September and present a major stage production each spring.
“Alice in Wonderland” was the first show Matthews Playhouse put on when the nonprofit opened in 1995 and Bayless, also the Playhouse’s founder, admits it had never been one of her favorite shows, although she enjoyed working with the 1995 cast and said the show went well then. So when it resurfaced as a possible show for 2013, she initially dreaded doing it.
“I waited to pick the script forever,” she said. “I didn’t love it last time, but I’ve really fallen in love with it.”
Part of that she attributes to a solid cast, especially the 11-year-old actress playing Alice. Bayless said all the students in the show are great in their respective roles and have worked well together since rehearsals began in late February.
“It’s going to be a great hour of entertainment from a group of talented people and (audience members) will be so surprised to find out none of (the cast members) are adults. They’re all kids,” she said.
In the past, Bayless would cast shows by age, giving older cast members more prominent roles. But in recent years, she discovered it works better to cast according to talent and ability, as well as who best fits a particular character, which she says helps when working with such a wide range of ages and skills.
“I spread them out based on talent and ability and that’s really worked well,” Bayless said.
For the set, Bayless said Matthews Playhouse is using some of the same scenery from February’s “Diary of a Worm” production, refiguring it to fit “Alice in Wonderland” and using various backdrops to symbolize different places in Wonderland.
One of the more challenging things about this show, she said, was figuring out how to direct the scene where Alice falls down the rabbit hole. Bayless eventually decided to incorporate dynamic choreography and lighting, having dancers function as the rabbit hole. The dancers move around Alice to give the audience a feeling the character is actually falling down the hole.
“It’s really a modern-dance interpretation,” Bayless said. “Falling down the hole is going to be really incredible.”
She added, “I’ve had a great time doing this and it’s going to be a fantastic show, able to stand up to any auditioned show we’ve done. People will want to come back and see the show again.”
Want to go?
Purchase tickets online at www.matthewsplayhouse.com or by calling 704-846-8343. Because there will be some street closings in conjunction with BeachFest Matthews, check the Playhouse’s website for instructions on parking.