Join Alice for Romp through Wonderland
Theatre Bristol presenting Children's Classic May 10
By TOM NETHERLAND | SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER | April 30, 2009*** Published: April 30, 2009 in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier.***
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Monday afternoon. While nine-to-fivers traveled to and fro along State Street, up the stairs to Theatre Bristol's rehearsal stage traipsed 29 cast members of "Alice in Wonderland."
Scheduled to stage on May 10 next door at the Paramount Center for the Arts, work began on Theatre Bristol's "Alice in Wonderland" about a month ago. Rehearsals, stage constructions, costume fittings and such.
Monday found the cast and crew in near-ready mode as they staged a rehearsal of the full show.
Annie Carr as Alice nailed her lines. Same goes for Matthew Paessler's excellently bizarre take on the Mad Hatter.
But first, director Chris McVey sat and spoke of the oft-produced play. "If you've ever seen the play," McVey said with emphasis and then a pause, "it's out there."
Over next to a window overlooking State Street rested a large orange top hat – the Mad Hatter's hat, of course. James Testerman, costume and set designer for Theatre Bristol, made the hat along with scores of other costumes for "Alice in Wonderland."
"They're bizarre," Testerman said. "It's definitely a bizarre show with a lot of color."
Written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1865 under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll as "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," the book has never fallen out of print. In its 144-year history, the book has been translated into 125 languages and adapted into plays, ballets, operas, pantomimes, movies and even an X-rated musical during the 1970s.
Very quickly, the story finds Alice deep in a fantastical dream. She meets The White Rabbit, who convinces her to seek adventures within the rabbit hole. Therein, she encounters some of literature's most vividly memorable and strange characters.
"We all have crazy dreams from time to time," McVey said.
That helps explain the long-enduring success of "Alice in Wonderland."
"It's a world we can't go to," McVey said. "It's an escape from reality. Why do people like to go to Disneyland? It's being able to get away, leave your troubles behind you."
As McVey spoke, a steady flow of kids entered the room, ready to rehearse. Included among them, Carr as Alice and Mary Cook as the devious character Cheshire Cat.
"I tell the kids "Good, better, best, never, never rest until your good is better and your better is the best,' " McVey said, invoking his inner Dr. Seuss. "I tell them that they can't always be the best, but you can always try."
And so at 6 p.m., and after a warm-up routine of stretching and jumping exercises to the Commodores' "Brick House," rehearsal began. Carr as Alice spoke. But for a few flubs, she nailed her lines.
Perhaps the most telling line came from Cook as the Cheshire Cat, to Alice. "We're all mad here," she said, grinning, to Alice. "I'm mad, you're mad."
Taken as a whole, "Alice in Wonderland" makes little sense in terms of story. The point, however, may be that it's OK to have a wide-open and wild-as-weeds imagination.
Fun – "Alice in Wonderland" equates to silly, nonsensical, seemingly crazy and absolutely pure old fun.
"I hope [the crowds] go away saying that these young people worked really hard to put on a performance to make them happy," McVey said. "From [ages] 9 to 90, I want them to have a great time."
IF YOU GO
What: "Alice in Wonderland"
When: May 10, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Paramount Center for the Arts, 518 State St., Bristol, Tenn.
Admission: $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, $8 for children under age 12
Info: (423) 274-8920 and (423) 968-4977