GILFORD — In the beginning of the play, the cast of "Alice in Wonderland Jr." sings the musical question, “How Do You Get To Wonderland? Over the hill, underland or just behind a tree?"
Well, the answer this coming weekend is simple: It is on stage in Gilford.
Set in the stage area of the First United Methodist Church on Wesley Way, you’ll find more than 40 young people from the ages of 7 to 16 performing the beloved Disney musical.
The multi-colored stage bears a resemblance to abstract impressionist Jackson Pollock’s work, but in reality was created by members of the cast.
For an hour, audiences will be captivated by the actions of a very experienced cast of youngsters from all over the Lakes Region. The show is a product of Streetcar Kids and Youth Theatre of the Streetcar Company, the longest-running theatre company in the Lakes Region.
From the beginning, the audience will see familiar faces. The Queen of Hearts is her usual controlling personae, while Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are joined by the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar, Mad Hatter, March Hare and various other characters. Of course, a confused Alice is there, falling down the rabbit hole.
In reality, there are three Alices. Small Alice is played by Ella Dennney, while Zoe Lehneman is Tall Alice and Isabella is Alice.
Thirteen-year-old Zoe has eight plays under her belt and considers playing Alice “a dream role.” She enjoys being on stage and playing different roles. “Each one teaches you about people,” she said.
Erin Holloran is a junior at Plymouth Regional High School and, although a practiced stage performer, is serving as stage manager in Wonderland. She understands the position of stage manager — that of being in charge of many things — and likes this production. “It is funny, with good catchy tunes,” she said.
Seven-year-old sister Bridget is also performing, playing several roles.
Theater-goers will be amazed at the brilliant, expertly fashioned costumes by Oriana Filiault who, when not putting costumes together, is a social worker at Lakes Region General Hospital.
“I have been a performer for years, and moved into creating costumes by accident,” she said, describing her love for theater. “I really like being around theatre people. It makes me realize I’m not the only weirdo,” she said with a grin.
Many of the cast members also fashioned their own costumes, reported director Raelyn Cottrell.
The musical moves along rapidly with a variety of scenes filled with song and dance choreographed skillfully by Patte Sarausky, Abby Jutton and director Cottrell.
Many of the cast members have been on stage for several years of their young lives, playing both for the Streetcar Kids organization and for individual school shows. Many also see the theater as a potential career, and look at things like Wonderland as stepping stones, one young woman even seeing herself on Broadway as “the next Barbara Streisand.”
Caterpillar Sabrina Rainville finds being on stage empowering. “I have been in 15 shows,” she reports. “They get me fired up, and feed my passion. I love the support we get from the audience.”
Queen of Hearts Jacqueline Nash of Gilford High School echoed Rainville’s sentiments. “I feel so comfortable on stage,” said Nash. “The positive feedback I get from the audience motivates me.”
Director Cottrell thoroughly enjoys what she is doing. “I love watching the kids grow on stage,” she said, “and watching the enjoyment they give to the audience. It takes an entire community to put on a show.”
At the age of seven, Bridget Holleran appears to have found the secret to theater success: “You get to play with the audience,” she said.
Disney’s "Alice in Wonderland Jr." will be at Gilford’s First United Methodist Church on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 6 - 8. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7 p.m.; Sunday’s matinee is 2 p.m. Tickets, at $10, are for sale at Greenlaw’s Music in Laconia and online at www.streetcarcompany.com, as well as at the door prior to each show.
The audience will join with the characters for a tea party after each show.