When Alice follows the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, she has no idea what she’ll find.
Talk about strange and colorful characters. There’s the Queen of Hearts who cries, “Off with their heads!” And the Mad Hatter and March Hare, always enjoying tea time, the shifty Cheshire Cat, and Caterpillar, who dispenses intriguing advice.
Valley Youth Theatre’s “Alice in Wonderland,” based on the Lewis Carroll tale, opens Friday, Feb. 10. The show is directed by Sandi Carll, VYT’s director of education and patron services. Carll admits it’s not a new subject for VYT, but it will be a new take.
“An entirely new cast of 27 incredibly talented young actors have worked hard on this show to develop their roles,” she says. “Together, we’ve studied Lewis Carroll’s story and figured out funny and meaningful ways to bring these iconic characters to life like never before.”
Carll adds, “With colorful costumes, a few surprises and some fairy-tale stage magic sprinkled in, this version of the show will be exciting to watch for all ages.”
Playing Alice in VYT’s current production is Kate Brink, a seventh-grader at St. Francis Xavier in Phoenix. She has previously appeared in VYT’s “Pinkalicious” as a butterfly and “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” as the gopher. Other credits include Grace in “Annie” at St. Frances Xavier and Sharpay in “High School Musical” at Art & Sol.
Making his VYT debut is Ethan Maxwell as the Mat Hatter. He has previously played Renfield in “Dracula,” Mark Ingestre in “Sweeney Todd” and worked on the tech end for “13: The Musical” for Thunder Theatre Company at Desert Vista High School, where Ethan is a junior.
A previous VYT production of “Alice in Wonderland” boasted one of Hollywood’s beloved leading ladies: Emma Stone, who this year won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture —Musical or Comedy— for her role as Mia in “La La Land.” Stone has also been nominated for an Oscar for the role. She played Tweedledum in a 2003 VYT production of “Alice.”
Carll believes the young actors in the cast of “Alice” have been inspired by Stone’s success.
“They like having a personal connection to her through their shared VYT experience,” she says. “Hearing stories about her at their age and seeing all the media buzz at VYT these past few weeks has motivated them more than ever to dream big.”
Carll notes that she often hears comments that reflect confidence and determination.
“They’re excited about the future,” she says.”After all, (Stone) was once in their shoes.”
VYT not only invites everyone to come and enjoy Alice’s magical journey, but after each show, children can talk with their favorite characters, get autographs and even pose for photos with them.
Fairly new to the VYT family, Carll says she’s loved her first project as director and couldn’t be happier with the way the young actors have tackled the show.
“Every rehearsal has been a terrific adventure where at first we got curious and curiouser, and then we all went a little mad,” she says. “The result is a fantastic version of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ not to be missed. Come join the fun!”
If you go: See “Alice in Wonderland” Feb. 10–26; 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10; noon and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Valley Youth Theatre, 525 N. First St., Phoenix. $18 plus fees. 602-253-8188 or vyt.com.