All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.
Alice of Wonderland is innocent, sweet and precocious, among other things; the least of which is steam-punked. That is, not until W.T. Woodson High School’s production of the beloved story. The soft fairy tale elements of Lewis Carroll’s two most popular novels, adapted in this 1932 play, were displayed alongside leather, chains and gothic lace in surprising harmony. Outstanding supporting performances and meticulous technical work made the audience’s experience wondrous.
Little Alice (Molly Jacob) is too curious and inquisitive for her own good. One day, while letting her imagination wander, she follows a tardy White Rabbit (Lara Taylor) down through his den into a mysterious Wonderland. She encounters a host of strange landscapes and madcap characters. She attends a peculiar croquet game, a story session with a Mock Turtle (Jack Carey), a tea party unlike any she’s seen before and a trial for her own fate. All sense in this place has been swapped for nonsense. Alice doesn’t stop to ask the Queen of Hearts (Faith Johnson) why she wants her beheaded or the Mad Hatter (CJ McCracken) offers her tea that isn’t there. There’s no use in questioning the Cheshire Cat’s (Gil Braun) smile or the Caterpillar’s (Caroline Weinroth) odd advice. Yet, with the help of the Red (Ali Romig) and White (Ana Mendelson) Queens, Alice becomes royalty herself and a master of her own imagination.
Jacob’s performance was consistent and steady, a necessity amongst an otherwise madcap cast of characters. The supporting cast was also showcased, as most of the “minor” characters had scenes all to themselves. Carey’s soothing voice and expert comic timing made the woes of the Mock Turtle absolutely absurd. Mendelson allowed the White Queen to bumble and float across stage—literally. Most actors took their characters in unexpected directions. Perched atop a mushroom and clutching a gas mask, Weinroth displayed the Caterpillar in a world of his own. The audience was amused by her vocal choices and physicality. Humpty Dumpty (Jack Reily) was made cynical and dry as he chastised Alice.
The steam punk theme wove its way comfortably throughout the performance. The caucus race runners were made into industrial puppets. The White Knight (Chris Medrano) rode a tandem bicycle. Perhaps the best use of the motif was in the exceptional costuming. Attention to detail, including Alice’s transformation into a punk herself, was impressive. The makeup, too, had edgy elements while conveying the classic characters.
Technical aspects of the show added to its overall pace and fluidity. Scene changes were expertly executed by the Queen’s cardsmen, who remained in character throughout. Other actors also contributed background chatter and action that eliminated dull moments. The use of flight rigging was effective, especially as Alice swam through the pool of tears, and the Cheshire Cat was occasionally observed by way of hot air balloon. The set pieces and props were highly appropriate to the theme and looked professional.
The Woodson cast found a balance between the sugary Disney vision of “Alice” and overly darkened productions that have proliferated in recent years. Engaging performances and excellent technical work made the show neither too sweet nor too bitter. Had it been marked with “Eat Me,” the audience would have been more than happy to savor this pleasant treat.