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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Childsplay transforms “Alice in Wonderland” into rock opera onstage in Tempe

Kyle Sorrell is the White Rabbit and Michelle Chin plays Alice in Childsplay's rockin' Wonderland.

Kyle Sorrell is the White Rabbit and Michelle Chin plays Alice in Childsplay’s rock ‘n’ roll “Wonderland” onstage April 23 through May 21. Photos courtesy of Childsplay.

Alice falling down a rabbit hole may be old news. But what if it involves rock ’n’ roll, with the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and Red Queen all taking part? That’s exactly what will happen weekends, April 23-May 21, when Childsplay brings “Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure” to the Tempe Center for the Arts.

“‘Wonderland’ is, more or less, a rock opera that mashes up musical theater into a rock concert setting,” says Director Anthony Runfola. He adds that it ties everything up “with a great rock ’n’ roll score that ranges from straight-up garage rock to Bollywood.”

Left to Right: Michelle Chin stars as Alice and Lauren McKay plays the Red Queen in Childsplay's new "Wonderland" production.

From left: Michelle Chin stars as Alice and Lauren McKay plays the Red Queen in Childsplay’s new “Wonderland” production.

Michelle Chin, who plays Alice, finds the rock ’n’ roll score one of the most appealing and unique aspects of the show.

“I think rock ’n’ roll music is associated with coming of age, and it reflects Alice’s journey of trying to find out who she is and what it means to be an adult,” she explains.

In this new musical version of a classic tale, Alan Ruch provides music direction and Robbie Harper choreography.

“The exciting part for the cast and the audience will be that the actors themselves play all of the instruments during the show,” Runfola says. “It’s as if Alice has fallen down the rabbit hole and landed on the stage at a Wonderland music festival.”

Chin also likes the idea of the actors playing the music onstage. “Having all of the characters also be the musicians brings out different elements in each of the characters and creates some curious and lovely staging and choreography,” she says.

Adapted from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass,” this Childsplay production is recommended for ages 6 and up.

Runfola notes that what sparked his ideas for the Childsplay production was Carroll’s original title for the story, “Alice’s Adventures Underground.”

“As we march towards adolescence, we somehow lose our identity and begin the journey of discovering who we will grow up to be,” he says. “Throughout our lives, we experience our own Mad Hatters, Caterpillars, Cheshire Cats, and yes, even Queens of Hearts. But hopefully, our time underground teaches us to keep our heads and temper our self-doubt with the fact that if we believe in ourselves, we can achieve just about anything.”

Childplay brings “Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure” to Tempe April 23–May 21.

Childplay brings “Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure” to Tempe April 23-May 21.

And Alice? She learns to believe in herself and to march to the beat of her own drum — literally.

Each family attending a special $12 Storybook Preview performance at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 23, will receive a free book. The Storybook Preview is sponsored by the Steele Foundation; the Childsplay production is sponsored by SRP.

If you go: Weekends April 23–May 21; 1 and 4 p.m. Saturdays; 1 p.m. most Sundays; Special Storybook Preview 4 p.m. Sunday, April 23; 7 p.m. Friday, May 12. Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. $12-$26. $12 Storybook Preview 4 p.m. Sunday, April 23. 480-350-2822 or

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Doris Nehrbass

Doris Nehrbass, of Peoria, is a freelance writer, editor and proofreader.

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