Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wheelock Family Theatre Opens Its 34th Season With "Alice" - A Children's Delight

Wheelock Family Theatre has kicked off its 34th season with a new musical, "Alice," adapted from Lewis Carroll's books about the eponymous adventuresome young girl.  The show, an original piece created by local artists Andrew Barbato and Lesley DeSantis, was workshopped at Stoneham Theatre and now experiences a fully staged version.  Based on the reaction of audiences on Opening Night, I would say that this is a show to which you should plan to bring your young children.  The book could use some work and not all of the songs are memorable, but I am quibbling here, because the families in attendance on Friday evening seemed to be having a wonderful time.

There are many things to praise about this production:

  • Matthew T. Lazure's complex set gives plenty of room and opportunity for Alice and her friends and tormentors to race around and have a wide variety of adventures - on land and sea.
  • Musical Director Robert L. Rucinski conducts an orchestra that presents the music of Mr. Barbato and Ms. DeSantis is just the right light, supporting the strong singing of a talented cast.
  • The lighting design of Scott Clyve and sound design of Roger J. Moore help to create a magical and mystical world.
  • The inventive costumes designed by Lisa Simpson are a strong part of this lush production.
  • Mr. Barbato directs his cast with a steady hand, choreographing and blocking the movements of individuals and groups to show them to the audience to their best advantage.
  • The young actors who portray the Flower Buds are clearly having a wonderful time on stage - and sometimes under the stage!
Leigh Barrett as The Red Queen
Noah Virgile as Tweedle Dum
Maritza Bostic as Alice
Stephen Benson as The White Rabbit
William Gardiner as Mouse
CWheelock Family Theatre

Photo by Gary Ng
  • Many of the principal actors shine in their roles.  Among those who stood out for me were:
    • Leigh Barrett as Mother/Queen of Hearts - she does an excellent job of portraying the perfectionist mother and "off with their heads" mad queen with great gusto, showing her lustrous voice to good effect in the moving duet with Alice, "Paint The Roses Red."
    • Stephen Benson is a non-stop frenetic presence as the White Rabbit - always late.
    • Martitza Bostic as Alice is obviously the centerpiece of this show.  Ms. Bostic came to the attention of Boston area critics in her recent portrayal of Little Red Riding Hood in the Lyric Stage Company production of "Into The Woods."  As Alice, she brings a believable sense of innocence mixed with frustration at never knowing exactly what size she may be at any moment as she searches for the special Queen's garden that caught her eye.
    • Dashiell Evett as Tweedle Dee and NoahVirgile as Tweedle Dum have a fun battle scene, and sing well together.
    • William Gardiner is terrific as Mouse, guiding Alice gently wherever she wants to go on his sailboat.  He and Alice sing a nice duet, "Sea As Our Guide."
    • Russell Garrett is magnificent as The Mad Hatter presiding over the crazy tea party with madcap aplomb.
    • Aubin Wise as the White Queen is a powerful vocal presence.
  • The rest of the cast members fill in very ably.  They all seem to have ingested the ethos of the piece and are clearly enjoying being part of this fantasy and Adventure in Wonderland.
This production will run through November 16.  For tickets, click below.



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