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Review: Newbury Park High School's ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND – A Darker Version

Newbury Park High School's ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND - A Darker Version Focused on the Original Story

As the audience walks into the lobby of the performing arts center, we are greeted with glittery visions of teacups and saucers, large animated flowers, and welcoming oversized characters beckoning us with which to take a photo-op. Life is good and happy...just like a Disney Parade.

We continue into the theatre and our world takes an eerie turn. The house lights are dimmer than usual and on the stage, behind the scrim, under an earie wash of light are figures slowly morphing into shapes and poses who creepily posture and intertwine until one-by-one they leave offstage in the fading darkness leaving a lone wagon with a bedroom affixed to it. Our E-Ticket Ride is just beginning.

Under the direction of Marilyn Strange with a unique, original adaptation by Nathaniel Shea (focusing on the original story by Lewis Carroll's Wonderland Series), puts all of the story into Alice's dreamlike hallucinations which then are transported from her imagination onto the stage.

This is a cast of ensemble actors well worth the retelling of such a legendary piece of literature.

What is unique about this high school theatre program is where it lacks in the big flashy sets and big budgets (as with some of the other local high school theatre programs), it more than overcomes and makes up for with the success of its focus on the art of acting. I must admit that I was a tad reserved coming to a production such as this having a setting in Great Britain (especially a story with multiple and varied regions), but I am happy to report that each and every dialect that was tried was successfully attained and executed during the two hour production.

This detailed focus on the craft of acting continues to flow into the scene-work of this play. There were so many wonderful moments and characters that have been creatively carved with strong acting choices. A few examples of this include May Sharpe's mature and direct Duchess with a sneeze that seems to come from an out-of-body sophistication; Anastasia Pyrinis' bold and commanding Queen of Hearts, and Emily Goldstein's mesmerizing Gryphon with wing choreography that is to be seen and experienced.

The quality acting continues within the scene-work and relationships within the show including Alice (Madeline Weiss) and Dr. Robert "Rabbit" Chillby (Michael Hellard), the high energy comedy team of Tweedledee (Kaitlin Maxwell) and Tweedledum (Jake Hedlund), and a scene featuring Walrus (Colin Grumney) and Carpenter (Ashley Berreth) which handles one of the most difficult and infamous pieces of literature with unique humor.

Special mention to Melody Hellard and Blair Brickner for the creation and execution of The Cheshire Cat and the aforementioned Gryphon and a shout-out to the Props Department for some very unique and creative props.

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" run through May 14 and play at the Newbury Park High School's Performing Arts Center, 456 N. Reino Road, Newbury Park 91320. For tickets and more information:

Photo Credit: Kylie Kelleher

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