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BWW Reviews: Main Street Theater's ALICE IN WONDERLAND is Whimsical Family Fun

Main Street Theater's 2012-2013 Theater for Youth Season is closing with a musical presentation of ALICE IN WONDERLAND. The Prince Street Players, founded in New York City in 1965, originated the production, which featured Adaptation, Book, and Lyrics by Jim Eiler with Music by Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy. Main Street Theater's production captures the frenetic whimsy of Wonderland, complimented by the cast's resounding and remarkable youthful energy.

In this version of Alice's famed trip to Wonderland, Jim Eiler effectively lifts scenes and moments from the novel and places them on the stage. He follows the original plot almost in its entirety, adding a scene inspired by the English Music Hall style of performance, so he can include some characters from Alice Through the Looking Glass as well. The music by Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy is reminiscent of the musicals of the 50s and 60s. It's glitzy, schmaltzy, and aurally entertaining.

Direction by Jimmy Phillips encourages the cast of 10 to really play with their assorted characters. The musical is more-or-less presented as a series of vignettes, with Alice bouncing from one musical number to the next; thus, the ensemble does a fantastic job giving audiences some of what they've come to expect from the more iconic characters while delivering their own interpretations as well.

Musical Direction by Steven Jones ensures that each number is sung with clarity and precision. The audience can easily access the tuneful ditties composed for the show, and may even leave the theater with a handful of the numbers stuck in their head.

As the adventuring Alice, Shanae'a Moore imbues the character with a tangible curiosity that makes her rather intrepid. She fearlessly travels through Wonderland, growing more intrigued by its zany culture. Moreover, her vocals are melodic and sweet, making audiences really envision her Alice as a young girl.

Scott Lupton's Rabbit is ebulliently bouncy and always maintains some sort of motion when present on stage. Fidgeting when standing still or crossing the stage, his neurotic adherence to time and his necessity to not be late makes his anxiety all the more palpable and charming. He lends his lovely tenor voice to the part, making his rendition of "Fur and Whiskers" and it's reprise appealing.

The other eight performers play a myriad of roles throughout the production, allowing Alice to interact with large swaths of the citizenry of Wonderland. Mark Ivy makes his wacky Mad Hatter and loveable but dopey Mock Turtle particularly memorable. Beth Lazarou's Queen of Hearts is imposing with her hilarious, childlike temper. Ashley Johnson's nasal screeching as the Duchess is adroitly off-putting and silly enough to make her character likeable. Marco Camacho easily induces chuckles as he slinks about the stage as the sage and wise Caterpillar. Rodrick Randall's Cheshire Cat is sumptuously puzzling. Teresa Zimmerman's Doormouse is simply endearing. Adrienne Whitaker's Flora Daisy dances with beguiling elegance. Zack Varela's Knave of Hearts is unassumingly comedic. Each member of the ensemble does fantastic work in all of his or her various roles, ensuring that Shanae'a Moore's Alice has a rich tapestry to work off of in the performance.

Set Design by Claire A. Jac Jones is somewhat rudimentary when compared to other shows in the 2012-2013 Theater for Youth Season, but it is wonderfully versatile. Also, the silver lame backdrop is clever and adroitly responsive to the lights cast upon it.

Costume Design by Macy Lyne brilliantly uses adaptable and flexible black and grey stripes on the ensemble that lend them self to the accented pieces for individual characters. Favorites among the fantastical designs are the cylindrical dress worn by Adrienne Whitaker's Lady-in-Waiting, the costume piece for Marco Camacho's Caterpillar, and the red, heart-shaped wig for Beth Lazarou's Queen of Hearts. I also enjoyed how she subtly worked stripes into the costumes of Alice and the Rabbit, ensuring that every member of the cast was connected through the use of black striping.

Lighting Design by Eric L. Marsh is vivid and bright. His use of black lights for "Down the Rabbit Hole" close to the top of the show was a splendid touch that really kept the idea of fantasy fresh in the mind of the audience. Likewise, he expertly utilizes the silver lame backdrop to create vibrant color washes that flood the stage.

Properties Design by Rodney Walsworth, like all the other technical elements, really highlights the quirky elements of the story. His design pristinely blends with the Set Design and Costume Design, guaranteeing that nothing feels out of place.

Sound Design by Shawn W. St. John fantastically keeps the music at a level where human projection of the voice is all that is required for vocals to be heard. All the sounds mix in the air and reach the ears of the audience at controlled and perfected volumes.

The only drawback to the performance is that the writing and music for the piece really feels dated and rather safe. Unlike other adaptations of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Kim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy don't take any risks to really make it their own. The talented cast and crew at Main Street Theater fill the show with life, but because of the writing it still feels somewhat stilted. Despite this, the show is rather fun and enticing for the entire family.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND runs at Main Street Theater - Chelsea Market, 4617 Montrose Boulevard, Houston through July 28, 2013. For more information or tickets, please visit or call (713) 524 - 6706.

All Photos by Kaitlyn Walker. Courtesy of Main Street Theater.

Alice (Shanae'a Moore) and the Dodo (Rodrick Randall), the French Mouse (Mark Ivy), the Duck (Teresa Zimmerman) and the Lory (Beth Lazarou). Birds designed by Richard Solis and Rodney Walsworth.

Shanae'a Moore as Alice and Beth Lazarou as the Queen of Hearts.

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