Theater Review: ‘Alice’ enthralls at PSF
It is almost 10 a.m. and 20 youngsters are seated on the red carpet that covers three sides of the thrust stage in Schubert Theatre, Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, DeSales University, Center Valley.
Another dozen or so pre-schoolers, wearing identical T-shirts, sit in theater seats close to the stage. Older children are interspersed throughout the theater.
The youngsters are here to see a performance of “Alice in Wonderland,” through Aug. 4 at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, complete with all the kooky characters Alice meets after falling down the Rabbit Hole.
When the action begins, the young theater-goers are welcomed by The Red Queen (Anelise Diaz), The Red King (Jahil Younger) and an eloquently-dressed White Rabbit (Andrew Scoggin) in gold jacket, multi-colored bloomers and purple vest, a foreshadowing of the rest of Costume Designer Amy Best’s superb custom-made costumes.
Alice (Renee McFillin) first appears lying on the floor, proclaiming her boredom as Alice’s Sister (Alexandra Seman) reads a book. If only something exciting would happen. And it does.
Alice spots the White Rabbit, chases him, and ends up falling into a very strange place. She grows twice her normal size, but not really. It is all done with lighting and creative special effects by Scenic and Lighting Designer Steve TenEyck, such as the spiraling tongue of light behind Alice that makes her appear to be growing.
The young audience is enthralled at the June 8 performance, seen for this review. They give Alice warnings when new characters appear. Sometimes, Alice sits down with the young theater-goers on stage.
Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat (Stephanie Hodge), whose grin is a hand-held roll-up screen, and her cat’s eyes are lit up bulbs on each shoulder.
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is a riotous event, with the table swirling one way and another as the Mad Hatter (Bo Sayre) and his guests constantly swap seats. Alice is invited to join the tea party, but first she must stick out her tongue for them to observe. Just as she does, a little boy seated on stage sticks out his tongue as well.
The highlight, of course, is the croquet game with The Red Queen, who always wins because it is “off with their heads” for those who beat her. The Queen is commanding in her vivid red dress, cape and hairpiece. The children stare in rapt attention.
The most enthralling character is Humpty Dumpty (Ethan Larsen), whose head is encased in a plastic bubble like an egg shell balanced on a wall.
The cast of “Alice in Wonderland” are members of the 2018 Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival Young Company, and include, in addition to the aforementioned, some of whom play multiple roles: Amy Rose Johnson (Duchess), Megan Lomax (Dormouse), Kellan McMichael (March Hare), Mark Yowakim (The Knave Of Hearts).
The performances are exceptionally exuberant and professional.
Award-winning director Eleanor Holdridge deserves another award for this stimulating, visually-exciting and innovative production of Michele L. Vacca’s stage version of the Lewis Carroll classic.
The young audience seemed to agree as they eagerly sought out their favorite characters for autographs after the show.
Tickets: Labuda Center for the Performing Arts lobby box office, DeSales University, 2755 Station Avenue, Center Valley; pashakespeare.org/psf_tickets.php; 610-282-WILL (9455)