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PLAY REVIEW: SCT’s ‘Alice in Wonderland Jr.’ features a talented cast and familiar songs

February 7, 2011
By CHARLES CALABRESE, Special to the Salem News

The Salem Community Theatre's current production of Disney's "Alice in Wonderland Jr." features all the great songs from the animated classic, interpreted by a talented, energetic young cast, under the direction of Sarah Durham, with musical direction by Bret Cowden and Drew Bostwick. This high-energy production runs just over an hour and the action never drags.

Bethany Kholos is excellent as Alice, with a strong stage presence and a fine singing voice. Special praise also goes to Haley Dees as Small Alice and Jacki Lydic as Tall Alice, who play the part after the title character has been affected by the various size-altering potions she takes on her journey through Wonderland.

Jacob Nash is impressive as the White Rabbit, creating a fully-realized character in just a few brief appearances. Nicki Talbott and Jordan Kriegel, as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, respectively capture their characters' essence in an equally short time on stage. For some inexplicable reason, this adaptation has three Cheshire Cats, but Dana Tonkinson, Abigail Johnson and Lindsay Syms are equally charming in the role.

Julia Cooper is enchanting as the Caterpillar, and her transformation into a butterfly is a lovely bit of low-tech stage magic. Sash Davis and Zach Devine have a nice on-stage chemistry as the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, but the adorable Olivia Rossi steals the scene as the Door Mouse (complete with Mickey Mouse ears).

Peyton Zamarelli commands the stage as the Queen of Hearts. Zach McMullen perfectly underplays the part of the King of Hearts. Brayden Jennings is quite funny as the Door Knob, as is Anthony Smith as the Dodo Bird. LeeAndrea Shafer is very credible as Alice's big sister, Mathilda.

Makala Bell, Amanda Dean, Kylie Dean, Beth Durham, Brittany Gulu, Sammie Howell, Makayla Jennings, Tyressa Manior, Ariana Pasqual and Julia Zamarelli, all do a fine job as various flowers and flower buds. Abigayle Baughman, Emily Fitch, Makenzie Steel and Violet Trybend perform double duty as Rock Lobsters and Royal Cardsmen.

Fact Box

WHAT:?Production of Disney's "Alice in Wonderland."

WHERE:?On stage at the Salem Community Theatre.

WHEN: This Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and next Sunday at 2 p.m.

TICKET INFO: Call 330-332-9688 for reservations.

Cloe Deak, Zachary Dean, Kate Durham, Gracie Galiffo, Becca Linan, Deaerae McLauphin, Cheyanna Porter, Kalyndra Shafer, Jessica Slocum, Naomi Trybend and Jillian Zamarelli all contribute to the production as members of the ensemble.

The production's only weakness is in the adaptation of the animated film to the stage. David Simpatico's book cuts so much from the film script that anyone not familiar with the story might find themselves more than a bit confused.

The music adaptation by Brian Louiselle is even worse, changing some lyrics unnecessarily and throwing in unrelated music, like an annoying hip-hop arrangement of "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" from Disney's "Song of the South," and the "Looney Tunes" theme (hopefully used with permission from Warner Brothers). The songs from the animated film are classics. They should have been left unaltered.

But the talented young actors and the fast pace of the production make the relatively minor annoyances of the adaptation bearable. "Alice in Wonderland Jr." will be presented again this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Call for reservations at 330-332-9688. I recommend this show for all family members.

- Guest reviewer Charles Calabrese, a resident of Wintersville, Ohio, has been writing performing arts reviews for print and broadcast for more than 30 years.



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