Take a trip down the rabbit hole with Alice at Draper Historic TheatreJan 27, 2020 10:34AM ● By Katherine Weinstein
The White Rabbit (Stacee Hunsaker) hides from Alice (Bonnie Ellis) in the Draper Historic Theatre production of “Alice in Wonderland.” (Photo courtesy Alayna Bria/Draper Historic Theatre)
By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]
“We’re all mad here,” the Cheshire Cat explains to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic story, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” The musical version of the tale at Draper Historic Theatre invites audiences into its “mad” world of talking white rabbits, grinning cats, tea parties and croquet games played with flamingo mallets. “Alice in Wonderland” will be presented Feb. 7–27.
Those who are familiar with the animated Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland” will experience a slightly different take on the story which includes characters that appear in Carroll’s original book. “This version follows the book very closely,” said director Alayna Bria. “There’s a bit of darkness balanced by lots of fun.”
The script originated with the Prince Street Players Ltd., a children’s theater group founded in New York City in 1965 by the actor, composer and director Jim Eiler. Eiler’s musical versions of classic stories like “Aladdin,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Pinocchio” were produced for television in the ’60s. They are often performed to this day for their humor and appeal to both kids and grown-ups alike.
Many of the young cast members in this production are actually “old hands” when it comes to creating theater. Thirteen-year-old Bonnie Ellis, who plays the title role of Alice, is enjoying her third year at Draper Historic Theatre. She has performed in “A Christmas Carol” at DHT with her family and appeared in “Annie” at Eastmont Middle School among other productions. Ellis dreams of performing on Broadway one day. “I just want to act, to give people joy,” she said.
Braeden Lorensen, who attends seventh grade at Beehive Science and Technology Academy, has also acted in “A Christmas Carol” for the past few years and once played Tiny Tim. He explained that he has been “doing theater for a long time” and enjoys it immensely. As the Dormouse at the mad tea party he alternates between falling asleep and being very active. “I get to release my wild side,” he laughed. “I get to be extremely loud and rambunctious!”
Lorensen has invented a name for his character, “Sam Leap,” which can be abbreviated to “S. Leap,” sleep being the dormouse’s favorite pastime. Several of the actors talked about the ways in which they can bring something original to their characters.
“Our director gives everyone a lot of room to create,” said Jenny Jones, who plays the Mad Hatter as well as a butterfly and a flower. “It’s like having a blank canvas I get to paint.” She grew up in Iowa and performed in theatrical productions throughout high school and also professionally in Los Angeles. “Alice in Wonderland” will be her third show at Draper Historic Theatre.
Stacee Hunsaker, in the role of the White Rabbit, remarked that “it is a joy to play someone who is excited all of the time!” Hunsaker was one of the doo-wop singing chorus girls in last season’s “Little Shop of Horrors.”
This production of “Alice in Wonderland” presents a challenge to the actors in the way that it tells the story, Hunsaker said. “Because it’s a dream, the flow is different. Scenes flow into each other and there are a lot of quick changes for actors playing multiple roles.”
“It’s such a different version of the ‘Alice’ story,” Jones said. “I’d encourage everyone to see it. You get more back story, another layer of the cake. It shows different points of view which is always good.”
“There are more characters from the original book,” said 13-year-old Audrey Lord who plays a duck. Her character is friends with a group of birds — a dodo, an eaglet and a lory. In order to get dry after a swim, Alice and the birds run a “caucus race” where the participants run around however and whenever they like so that everyone wins. “This is my first time playing such a funny role,” Lord said.
“It’s a really, really fun show,” Ellis said. “There’s so much happiness, music, dancing and singing. People should take the time to see the show and support the theater.”
“Alice in Wonderland,” adapted from the book by Lewis Carroll, with script and lyrics by Jim Eiler and music by Eiler and Jeanne Bargy, will be presented at Draper Historic Theatre Feb. 7–27 at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Feb. 15. Draper Historic Theatre is located at 12366 South 900 East. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit drapertheatre.org or leave a message at 801-572-4144.