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Students eager to stage ‘Alice In Wonderland, Jr.’

By Staff | May 27, 2010

Preparing to debut “Alice In Wonderland, Jr.” The Musical at The Sanibel School are, from left, Kim Breece, Dane Johnson and Jessica Simonds-Short.

“Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland,” written by Lewis Carroll, has been enthralling people of all ages for more than 145 years. Walt Disney created a popular cartoon version of Alice’s tales in 1951, and more recently her adventures were adapted

into one of this year’s top blockbuster movies entitled “Alice In Wonderland” starring Johnny Depp, inviting yet another generation to travel down the rabbit hole.

But for islanders looking to indulge in a live musical version of the classic fairy tale need look no further than The Sanibel School, where students from the Performing Art Class will present Walt Disney’s “Alice In Wonderland, Jr.” The Musical on Thursday and Friday, May 27 and 28, as well as on Thursday and Friday, June 3

and 4.

Curtain is at 7 p.m. and tickets are $7 for adults and $2 for children ages 5 to 18.

Mark Thomas is all smiles as the deliciously deviant Mad Hatter.

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

School’s music director. The cast — comprised of sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students — have been rehearsing the musical since January.

“We’re pretty sure we will bring down the house,” Angelo said.

Traditionally, the students stage two musical productions each year, in December and May. In years past, they have performed the likes of “Into The Woods,” “Aladdin,” “Mulan,” “High School Musical” and “Grease” as well as all-time favorites including “Fiddler On The Roof,” “The Sound of Music,” “Guys And Dolls,” “Annie” and “The Music Man.”

Angelo, who is "elated" with this year’s Performing Arts class, said that the island community will be in for a real treat as far as the acting, sets and dance numbers go. He and Arlene Dillon work closely with the cast to get every detail, including the dance moves, perfectly in sync.

The cast of “Alice In Wonderland, Jr.” The Musical includes, from left, Mark Thomas, Dane Johnson, Jessica Simonds-Short, Kim Breece, Gina Radicchi and Shelby Gorka.

On a recent morning, the student cast hustled about the stage prepping for the upcoming show. Tricia Garmager, 13, went over a few 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 In Wonderland, Jr.”

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 said.

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 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 ever-smiling cat that really amuses her.

“The Cheshire Cat is kind of funny, kind of crazy,” she said.

Casey Wexler, 13, explained that she is looking forward to her role as the Queen of Hearts. Although she has performed in other shows before, Wexler is very excited about this role.

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

However, Wexler welcomes the opportunity to prove her mettle on stage.

“I really like it,” she added. “It gives me a chance to try out different roles.”

The “Alice In Wonderland, Jr.” stage sets have been created with an imaginative flair. Expect things like moving waves and other professional-style 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. He also said that this Disney-inspired musical is a good fit for the student performers since it involves so much imagination.

“And it’s something a lot of our students are familiar with,” he noted.

The young cast is hoping that friends and fellow islanders 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 encourages the entire community to come out and see her and the whole cast sing and dance their hearts out during their whimsical four-show run of “Alice In Wonderland, Jr.”

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