IN REVIEW - This 'Wonderland' more down-to-earth

Aaron Krause • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:54 PM

HURON - The Wonderland in Charlotte B. Chorpenning's stage version of "Alice in Wonderland" is a land without jaw-dropping, wide-eyed wonder.

But, wonder nonetheless.

A fine-tuned Caryl Crane Children's Theatre cast, guided by artistic director Ronald Ruble, sees to it in their staging of Chorpenning's adaptation, which plays through Sunday at BGSU Firelands' McBride Auditorium.

In this musical stage version of the children's classic, unlike in the original story, Alice does not grow dramatically tall or short after nibbling on a magical mushroom. Neither does she drink a mysterious liquid that has the same effect. It would be hard, if not impossible, to replicate that kind of magic on-stage. Still, most of the oddball characters inhabiting wonderland in the original tale are present in this dramatization by Chorpenning. Absent Alice's mysterious growth spurts, Ruble emphasizes the separate brands of eccentricity belonging to Wonderland's residents.

These colorful, zany characters, played with Energizer Bunny-like verve, are enough to amaze us.

Among them: The skittish white rabbit, played with excessive nervous energy by Edison High School junior Cody Noon, who twitches his face just like a rabbit; the Mad Hatter, portrayed pompously with a British accent by Briar Middle School eighth grader Paul Bower; the mean queen (portrayed with more silliness than meanness by adult cast member Jennifer Wertz) and the Mock Turtle, a jubilant, charming St. Mary's High School freshman Kelsea Freeman.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is normal little Alice (Huron St. Peter's eighth-grader Lindsay Kaatz, who imbues the young girl with the right amount of tension).

"Alice in Wonderland" is mostly escapist entertainment. But, there's an Oz-like message that you never truly appreciate what you have back home until you're gone for a long time. In the book, we first meet Alice looking over her sister's shoulder at the book she's reading, bored as can be. She yearns for some adventure, falls asleep and, in a dream, follows the white rabbit through a rabbit hole to Wonderland.

That scene is absent from Chorpenning's stage version, although the story ends with Alice waking up from her dream, finding her beloved cat and being thankful for all she has. Without the opening scene, the story fails to come full circle.

Instead, in the stage version, Wonderland's residents scurry on-stage singing "Alice Chased the Rabbit Down The Rabbit Hole," to the tune of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

Makes you stop to consider why this girl is chasing this strange rabbit down a hole. Then again, isn't wonder the basis for this entire tale?

Aaron Krause is a Reflector staff writer. Reach him via email at akrause@norwalkreflector.com. IF YOU GO

WHAT: "Alice in Wonderland," adapted for the stage by Charlotte B. Chorpenning, based on Lewis Carroll's book

WHEN: Through Sunday. Performances 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: BGSU Firelands' McBride Auditorium in Huron

HOW MUCH: Adults-$8.00, Seniors-$6.00, School Children-$5.00, and BGSU Firelands Students-$4.00. Group rates of $6.00 per person are available for groups of 15 or more. Stop by the box office or call 419-433-5560, ext. 20747.

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