Down the Rabbit Hole With Alice at Harwich Junior Theatre
By: Susan Blood, August 16, 2012
Courtesy Harwich Junior Theatre - Audrey Erickson is the March Hare, Ian Morris is the Mad Hatter and Erin Mahoney plays Alice in Harwich Junior Theatre's production of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," showing now through August 26.
How does Harwich Junior Theatre get a room full of wiggly, squiggly children to sit so still on a summer night?
The minute the Jester jumps on stage to get things started, kids are all ears. The only thing you hear from the audience once the lights go down is a lot of laughing—and possibly a spontaneous rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” by a very small child behind you if you’re as lucky as we were.
HJT’s production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has all the elements of riveting entertainment for kids: child actors, silly costumes, misbehaving adults and a lot of nonsense.
If you go...
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Showing now through August 26
Tuesday through Thursday at 7 PM; Friday and Saturday at 4 PMHarwich Junior Theatre 105 Division Street West Harwich
Tickets: Adults $22; children $15
For reservations, visit hjtcapecod.org or call 508-432-2002
As you most likely recall, Alice’s adventures begin benignly with a story under a tree with her sister. As the afternoon gets sleepy, Alice (played by Erin Mahoney) spots a white rabbit and dives down the rabbit hole after it. What follows is a series of impossibly small vignettes.
There’s no time for kids to lose interest, because everything changes the moment it starts. Giddily costumed creatures come and go, including (among many, many others) a flock of birds at the bottom of the rabbit hole, a frog footman, a mock turtle, a griffin and, of course, a Mad Hatter (Ian Morris) and a March Hare (Audrey Erickson).
My young companion’s favorite was the caterpillar, made up of three actors (Karen Stewart, Olivia Graceffa and Zelda Mayer) in similar costumes of billowy pants and exotic ornaments. Sometimes they moved as one, other times they split up—giving the effect of seeing triple. Their undulating movements are some of the most interesting choreography in the play.
Parents, who may recall that the caterpillar was smoking something in the book, will appreciate the dreamy, trippy quality of the caterpillar’s movements.
The Duchess (Stephanie DeFerie) was also a big hit with our family, tossing her child around the stage and dipping it in the soup kettle while the cook continued throwing cookware. There is something about adults behaving badly that makes kids laugh like maniacs, and Alice has plenty of these moments.
There are 38 characters in all, making for a very busy stage with plenty to watch. Kids of various ages fill almost all the roles, keeping costume designer Bobbie-Jean Powell on her toes. A flock of flamingos, the Queen of Heart’s court, two sizes of Alice and all the other characters in Wonderland must have required hours of work and endless imagination.
Direction, scenic and lighting design was by James P. Byrne, who magically made Alice shrink and grow with lighting trickery and clever staging.
Toy blocks, built to Wonderland scale, provide a set in constant transition. In one scene they support Alice as she falls down the rabbit hole, in another they become the table for a mad tea party.
When we left, my daughter asked me all the questions I remember wondering about Alice when I was her age. What is a knave? A mock turtle? A lobster quadrille? The kids were so fascinated by the story, we’re now reading the book at home.
Whatever it is that HJT does, it’s working.