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The Sanibel School to present ‘Alice in Wonderland Jr.’ musical

By Staff | May 20, 2010

The Sanibel School Performing Arts student Marya Rybak works on the set for “Alice in Wonderland, Jr.,” while Alice played by Performing Arts student Kelsey Congress rehearses for the upcoming show. The performance is set to begin on Friday, May 27 at The Sanibel School.

Decades ago, literary author Lewis Caroll wrote about an imaginary world in

which a little girl named Alice finds herself in a dream. In this world of

opposites and contradictions, rabbits talk and are perpetually late for tea,

and eating mushrooms can change one’s size to teeny tiny or giant.

“The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland” has been enthralling people of all

ages for years. A modern continuation of Alice’s adventures has been adapted

into one of this year’s movie features called “Alice in Wonderland” starring

Johnny Depp.

But for islanders looking to indulge in a live musical version of the fairy

tale one need look no further than The Sanibel School where students from

Performing Art Class will be presenting Walt Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland,

Jr.” on Thursday and Friday, May 27 and 28, and Thursday and Friday, June 3

and 4. Curtain is at 7 p.m. and tickets are $7 for adults and $2 for

children five to 18.

The production is being produced and directed by Joe Angelo, The Sanibel

School music director.

The cast — comprised of sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students — have been

rehearsing the musical since January, Angelo said. “We’re pretty sure we

will bring down the house,” Angelo said.

The students put on two musical productions each year, in December and May.

In years past they have performed the likes of “Into the Woods,” “Aladdin,”

“Mulan,” and “Willy Wonka,” “High School Musical” and “Grease,” as well as

such all-time favorites as “Fiddler on the Roof,”  “The Sound of Music,”

“Guys and Dolls,” “Annie,” “The Music Man,” and    “Beauty and the Beast.”

The performing arts course offers students a chance to participate in live

musical theater productions.  Whether a student wishes to be a star on the

stage or work behind the scenes, performing arts offers an array of

experiences ranging from singing, acting and dancing to managing costumes,

props, and crew, Angelo said.  Students develop performance techniques in

musical and dramatic settings while learning the basics of drama, he said.

“We earn funds for our musicals primarily through donations, fundraisers and

ticket sales,” he said. “Any donations to help support our musical

productions are greatly appreciated.”

Angelo, who’s elated with this year’s performing art class, said the

community will be in for a real treat as far as the acting, sets and dance

numbers go. He and parent Arlene Dillon work closely with the cast to get

every detail, including the dance moves, in sync.

On a recent morning, the student cast hustled about the stage prepping for

the upcoming show. Tricia Garmager, 13, went over dance steps with fellow

cast members. A resumé, that includes performing in the school’s version of

“Beauty and the Beast” as well as years of dance experience, have earned her

the position of choreographer for “Alice…”

The fresh-faced Garmager sighed as she went through the dance numbers which

she calls “slowed down hip-hop.” “A lot of times people don’t get it,” she


Her friend and fellow performer, Marya Rybak, 13, nodded as she watched

Garmager give instruction to cast dancing during the musical chairs number

during rehearsal.

“She has to be able to break it down so everyone gets it,” Rybak said. But

the trials and tribulations of rehearsals are worth it for what the cast

themselves is calling a must-see performance. “It’s kind of crazy, it’s kind

of vague,” Rybak said.

Rybak will be performing in two roles — the Cheshire Cat and Tweedle Dum.

Her best friend Kyle Herman gets to work alongside her as Tweedle Dee. But

it’s her characterization of the Cheshire Cat that really amuses her. “The

Cheshire cat is kind of funny, kind of crazy,” she said.

Casey Wexler, 13, said she is looking forward to her role as the Queen of

Hearts. Wexler who has performed in other shows before is really excited

this role which is very different from any other she’s undertaken. “This is

my role where I am really evil,” she said. “I am kind of bossy.” But Wexler

welcomes the opportunity to prove her mettle on stage. “I really like it,”

she said. “It gives me a chance to try out different roles.”

The sets will be created with an imaginative flair. Expect things like

moving waves and other professional touches. “We’re going to have some

pretty crazy sets,” Rybak said.

Angelo doled out responsibilities such as creating the sets and the

choreography so the students have more hands-on experience with the nuts and

bolts of creating a show.

Angelo said “Alice in Wonderland JR” is a good fit for the student

performers since it involves imagination.“And it’s something a lot of our

students are familiar with,” he said.

Angelo said working on school performances helps set students up for a

future in the arts. A number of students from The Sanibel School have since

gone on to art-based high schools, among them Cypress Lake High School in

Fort Myers. Kacie Phillips, a former Sanibel School student, is a rising

starlet about to graduate Cypress Lake after a fabulous run during her final

year as Charity in the school’s award-winning “Sweet Charity.”

This week Cypress Lake Center for the Arts took awards in six categories at

the state HIgh School Musical Awards ceremony: Best School Spirt for school

involvement, attendance, advertisement, etc.; Best Orchastra;  Best

Technical Merit for the play’s set design and CGI backgrounds; Runner-up

Supporting Male Actor — Michael Nance for his role as Vittori Vidal, the

Latin movie star; and Runner-up Best Male Actor in a Lead Role — Jeremy

Miller for his portrayal of Oscar Linquist. Kacie, for her part, won Best

Actress in a Lead Role for her Charity Hope Valentine performance. Even with

all those awards, "Sweet Charity" only won Runner-up Best Musical

Production, losing to North Fort Myers’ production of "Joseph and the

Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat."

But set designs, costumes, rehearsals, and possible later-on awards aside,

perhaps the most important role for the student shows is the community. “I

hope that they will have a large audience,” Angelo said. “They really

perform much better when they have a large crowd.”

The cast is sure the community will want to see their latest thespian

efforts. “I think it’s kind of more professional than anything we we have

done before,” Garmager said.

Rybak slid down on the stage for a second during rehearsal to encourage the

community to see her and the cast sing and dance their hearts out during

thir whimsical, fantastical “Alice in Wonderland JR.”

“I think people are going to be impressed,” she said.