BWW Review: LOOKINGGLASS ALICE at Center Stage - A musical treat for all ages

Center Stage Artistic Director Kwami Kwei-Armah stated the following, "Each year I try to program something specifically for the family but also speaks to adults. This work was introduced about a decade ago at Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre (Remember their astonishing MOBY DICK at Arena Stage last year?) We'll be doing our own, something particular to our audiences and our sensibilities." Well, mission accomplished!

Thank you Kwami. What a pure delight LOOKINGGLASS ALICE is. I took my six year old grandson and he was captivated during the entire 70 minute production. There is no intermission. He was thrilled to recognize so many of the Lewis Carroll characters and how they were portrayed.

Please take my advice. Take the entire family and get to Center Stage early. In the lobby you 'll see a giant chess board, a large chalk board where kids can color, check out the ceiling where you will see a blanket, basket , food and wine upside down, there's even a light show. Inside the Pearlstone Theatre lobby you'll think you are in a fun house with many tall, wide, small distorted mirrors. Oh, did my grandson LOVE this!!!

So even before the show starts, one is engrossed in the theme of the show.

The entire cast has the energy of the" Eveready Bunny" . Is that a double entendre?? You see there really is a white rabbit played by Garrett Turner (also White Knight, Wicket, and March Hare). Wait till you see him fly all over the stage with acrobatic ease.

Director Jeremy B. Cohen has assembled an exuberant and talented cast and must have had a ball putting this whole play together. One of his best decisions was to select the world-renowned choreographer Rennie Harris, considered the pioneer of Street Dance. The New York Times called him "the most profound choreographer of his idiom". It is truly a treat to watch.

Don't expect to see a copy of the Disney cartoon of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" written by Lewis Carroll but all the characters are lovingly portrayed.

The play centers on the perky Markita Prescott who has the titular role of "Alice" and with her infectious smile and superb voice starts the evening off with a bang.

Playing the "Red Queen" (and "Dormouse", "Caterpillar", and "Tweedle Dee") is the powerful Patrice Covington who first appears walking down a long staircase belting out a wonderful song. (I do wish Center Stage listed the musical numbers and who sang them.) And the music is just plain terrific. I wish there was a CD available. Her back-up dancers add to the pleasure and they are both local artists: Jessica Bennett, a recent graduate of Garrison Forest School and Sensei Silab who is a senior at the Baltimore School for the Arts majoring in theater. This is her first professional stage appearance.

Narraator Christopher Ramierez plays Mr. Dodgson (writer Carroll's real name) and plays "The White Queen" "Caterpillar", and "Tweedlledum".

Rounding out the cast is David Darrow who has so much fun playing the "Cheshire Cat"a, Mad Hatter", "Caterpillar", and "Humpty Dumpty" (can't have this show without him). He also is a talented guitarist.

The great David Burdick once again proves he is a fabulous Costumer and must have had loved designing these outfits. Scenic Designer Tim Mackabee seems to be everywhere having done the recent SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE at Center Stage and his work can be seen at the Arena Stage in NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN. Where does he find the time for this?? Others who contribute greatly are Projection Designer Caite Hevner, and Lighting Designer Rui Rita.

I also loved the gigantic picnic basket out of which many actors appear.

A highlight is when the house lights come on and the cast asks for a volunteer who came on stage to join the famous "tea party". There were quite a few audience members who wanted the chance. Tailyn Smith was the lucky one selected and she ran up the steps of the stage and then joined the actors on as they all sipped "tea". Well, I think they were shocked to see this talented 7 year old from Pikesville who attends Millbrook Elementary School, almost steal the show. She is precious. She was there with a large group of girl scouts from Troop 372 of Epworth Methodist Church who all loved the show. I asked Tailyn how she enjoyed her acting gig. She said, "It was amazing, I got to move a chair". Bashful is not in her vocabulary. Her father Ryand thought she was "fantastic". Let me say right now, she has a future in the theater

Perfect for the younger set is a matinee on Tuesday, Dec. 26 and there's even a New Year's Eve performance.

LOOKINGGLASS ALICE continues until Dec. 31, 2017. For tickets, call 410-332-0033.

THIS AND THAT

Actress Patrice Covington had a busy week. After performing Tuesday through Sunday night, she headed to New York City on Monday to take part in the annual "Toys for Tots" concert which included the casts of DEAR EVAN HANSEN, SPONGBOB SQUARE PANTS, and WAITRESS. She will also be touring in concerts across the country along with Jesse Nager (who helped organize the" Toys for Tots" benefit) in which she will be portraying Aretha Franklin and Nager will be Smokey Robinson. They worked together in MOTOWN THE MUSICAL where Nager played Robinson.

Covington also has a scholarship foundation for young women and has a special class for young women and little girls which she conducts wherever she visits. Visit www.TheGalaxyMethod.com .

If you want a different take on "Alice", the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company will actually be presenting ALICE IN WONDERLAND by Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus, adapted from the Lewis Carroll tales from April 27 to May 27, 2018. For tickets, call 410-244-8670.

Check out the live musical event A CHRISTMAS STORY LIVE! To air Sunday Dec. 17 from 7 to 10 p.m. on Fox starring Maya Rudolph, Matthew Broderick, Jane Krankowski, Ana Gasteyer, David Alan Grier, Ken Leong and newcomer Andy Walken as "Ralphie"

Music and lyrics are by the Tony and Oscar winning team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. They have added a new song for the musical titled "Count on Christmas". The composers have revised many of the songs from the original Broadway version and many were completely re-written. Pasek and Paul have also done the music for the new Hugh Jackman film "The Greatest Showman". Jackman recently raved about the composers on "The Tonight Show" and "The Today Show".

This is my last review of the year and I wanted to wish all my readers HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

cgshubow@broadwayworld.com

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