Review: Alice in Wonderland at D.L. Parsons Theatre
A review by Lisa Bornstein
A caveat, to open this review: You won’t be reading here about the brilliance of Actor X or the missteps of Actor Y. That’s because Actor X may be 10 and Actor Y is on the cusp of 13. When it comes to theater criticism, children get special treatment. We may address the performances, however gently, of a touring production of “The Lion King.”
But Northglenn Youth Theatre is a theater for and by children. It’s a place to learn and to try new things. And nothing squashes that kind of risk-taking faster than picking apart the performances of the budding young talent onstage.
As a collection of actors, however, Northglenn Youth Theatre brings together an impressively poised, well-rehearsed group with plenty of stage presence.
Longtime director Kimberly Jongejan has taken a wide range of ages, types and abilities and, despite the many responsibilities clouding a child’s head, has delivered a focused, polished production of “Alice in Wonderland.”
This is no Disney cartoon, but a musical rooted in Lewis Carroll’s text. In a great clever stroke, Jongejan has tinted the entire production with steampunk, making it simultaneously Victorian and trendy. For those not given to cult passions, steampunk began in science fiction and has spread to many forms of culture as a kind of futuristic, post-apocalyptic embrace of the accoutrements of the early industrial age. In “Alice in Wonderland,” this presents itself in sets and costumes full of gears, tools and miscellaneous pieces of equipment. Practically speaking, this allows for a set of detritus that fits the book’s Victorian roots as well as its topsy-turvy dream world.
Northglenn stages its plays in the D.L. Parsons Theatre of the Northglenn Recreation Center. It’s a nice theater with permanent seating that gives students the respect of a professional atmosphere. Adding to the dignity is the live music that accompanies them, and the onstage turntable that facilitates the change from Alice’s world to that of Wonderland.
Choreography has been well-considered and well-taught by Angila Waldman, so that the young performers are always sure-footed and expressing character through their movement.
Christopher M. Waller’s set is less developed than other areas of the production (presumably for budgetary reasons). For young audiences, a more magical set and more dynamic lighting would further transport them to another world. Caitlin Ayer’s costumes are laden with imagination, from the spool hat of the Mad Hatter to a costume dripping with spoons.
Even the curtain calls here are character-driven, a final tip of the mad hat to just how seriously and well-considered the entire undertaking has been.
“Alice in Wonderland” continues through April 28 at Northglenn Recreation Center. Tickets are $8 for adults and $7 for seniors and children. Call (303) 450-8800 for ticket reservations.