It's a wild ride down the rabbit hole for kids and adults in Disney's Alice in Wonderland Jr. at Casa Mañana. The show is faithful to the 1951 animated movie produced by the Mouse. Both film and stage versions are based on the Lewis Carroll classics, The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with a couple of exceptions: How did "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" from Song of the South and "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" from The Aristocats make their way into Alice's story?
Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.
Don't spend too much time trying to figure out the added song choices or much of anything else for that matter, or you might miss something. From the time Alice makes a truly spectacular leap down the rabbit hole chasing the perpetually late White Rabbit, it's a frenetic parade of characters, songs and situations that don't necessarily seem to fit together. Just like dreams. Luckily, Alice just goes with the flow.
Alice has her ups and downs (and way ups) thanks to little bottles of potion and magic cookies. While on her journey, she meets Wonderland's familiar residents, the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the wacky and outrageous Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, and all manner of singing, dancing, talking mushrooms, door knockers, flowers, animals and playing cards.
Director Joe Sturgeon, director of theater for youth at Children's Theatre at Casa Mañana, keeps the pace bordering on frenetic. He also throws in some funny references probably not in David Simpatico's book adaptation, like Facebooking, and old Tom Jones song and character names from Gilligan's Island. It's those references that will keep the adults chuckling.
In a clever bit of casting, Kenady Shope and Hayley Lenamon shared the role of Alice in Saturday night's performance. The reason there are two actresses will become clear when you see the show. Both Alices are the Disney ideal of the blonde Alice, right down to her white pinafore and Mary Janes.
Casa Mañana favorites David Coffee and Deborah Brown get plenty of laughs. Coffee plays the Tweedles, Dee and Dum, with perfect individualism to distinguish the two. And Brown is regal and bossy as the Queen of Hearts in a fabulous dress.
A twitchy, perpetually-in-motion Aubrey Adams as the Cheshire Cat serves as the story's narrator. She has a dance solo choreographed by Jeremy Dumont that shows off her cat prowess and dancing skills, even if the song does belong to another Disney piece.
Anna Pena, Addie Morales, Whitney Pavell and Natalie Renfro are the "Heathers" of Wonderland in the snarky guise of the ladies of the Golden Afternoon Garden Club.
The scene-stealer is the totally outrageous Mad Hatter, played to obnoxious, wacked-out perfection with a hint of Johnny Depp by Christopher J. Deaton. There is a delicious bit of nonsense when the Mad Hatter tries to repair the White Rabbit's (played by Tiffany Stringer) pocket watch with an assortment of "tools" and includes a surprise cameo appearance by Peter Pan.
Costumer designer Tammy Spencer has completely outdone herself in this show. Every colorful detail creates a living cartoon on Winston Ragle's equally colorful, whimsical set.
Disney's Alice in Wonderland Jr. runs through April 15, so set a date. And don't be late!