Theatrical Review – Disney’s Alice in Wonderland Jr.
By Don Chaddock
Alice, a girl confounded by conformity, comes to learn her life is pretty swell in El Dorado Musical Theatre’s production of “Disney’s Alice in Wonderland Jr.” Based on the animated classic film, which celebrates six decades this year, the musical does justice to the film while also braving new ground and borrowing a tune from another Disney classic, “Song of the South.” The show presented some logistical challenges for the local theatrical group. For starters, 131 kids ranging in age from 6 to 13 comprise two casts — Hearts and Clubs. That means twice the rehearsals, often double costumes and extra space to put it all together.
Wade Sherman, EDMT’s executive producer, tells me they had to rent additional space to handle all the extra rehearsals. Rick Wilson, the show’s director, said it best before the curtain raised on opening night Friday at Three Stages. “To put together a production like this … takes literally thousands of (volunteer) hours,” he said. Those hours paid off. I caught the Hearts Cast performance, but I’m sure the Clubs Cast is just as good. This is a Rising Star production for EDMT, showcasing the next generation of the theatrical group. The songs are lively and the dancing is pure perfection.
Standouts for the show include Claire Soulier, 12, as Alice. She carries a heavy load as the title character but pulls it off as well as someone twice her age. She attends Rolling Hills Middle School in El Dorado Hills. Hannah Hurst, 9, conveys the necessary frenetic energy needed to play The White Rabbit. This is a return of sorts to the world of Wonderland for Hannah, who played the title character in the Sutter Street Theatre production “Alice in Wonderland” (which also earned her an Elly nomination). Hannah is a student at Silva Valley Elementary in El Dorado Hills. Eric Hurst, 12, dazzles as the Caterpillar. His jazzy and hip take on the multi-legged espouser of Wonderland wisdom is a breath of fresh air. Eric performs “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” which is a well-known diddy from the 1946 Disney film “Song of the South” (which has never been released to video). When he’s not dancing and singing, Eric attends Rolling Hills Middle School. Allison Frew, 13, shines as the unbalanced Queen of Hearts. The larger-than-life role doesn’t dwarf the young actress, who hassles Alice with a trial and threats of beheading. Allison attends Holy Trinity School in El Dorado Hills. Isabella Fay, 12, blew me away as Cheshire Cat. She plays the slinky mischievous feline far beyond her years. Other than Alice, Cheshire Cat is probably the only other character who comes close in terms of stage time. The cat acts as narrator throughout the production. Finally, I have to give a “stage stealer” nod to the King of Hearts, 6-year-old Joshua Davis. He brought the house down when he first came on stage and continued to kill as he uttered each of his lines. Joshua attends Gold River Discovery Center School in Gold River.
My co-reviewers — Cian, 13, and Parker, 11 — rated it five stars and chose the King of Hearts as their favorite character. I highly recommend getting out to Three Stages to see this one. Rating: Five out of Five Stars