The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019









Where: Windham High School, 64 London Bridge Road, Windham
When: Friday, July 20, 7 p.m.; Saturday, July 21, 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, July 22, 2 p.m. 
Tickets: $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors

Back to Wonderland
A musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic fairytale


 By Angie Sykeny
The kids of the Windham Actors Guild are putting a new spin on Lewis Carroll’s novel Through the Looking Glass with their summer youth musical production Wonderland!, opening Friday, July 20, at Windham High School. 
Through the Looking Glass, published in 1871, is the sequel to Carroll’s 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s set six months after the events of the first book and follows Alice as she climbs through a mirror into a fantastical world that resembles a game of chess. 
Not to be confused with Wonderland: A New Alice, another musical based on Carroll’s stories that premiered on Broadway in 2011, Wonderland! is an original musical written for youth theater, made available by the theater publishing and licensing company Pioneer Drama Service. 
It centers on a young girl, Alice, who is fed up with being a kid and always being told what to do. Through her imagination, she travels to Wonderland, where she becomes a pawn in a giant game of chess. As she moves toward the last square on the board, where she will become a queen, she encounters all kinds of characters, including a baseball team, a gospel group called The Responsibilities, a train conductor, starstruck tourists, plastic light-saber-wielding knights and others. 
“It appeals to a wide audience, which fairy tales typically do, but it’s not your run-of-the-mill fairy tale. The concept is different, which is why I’m drawn to it,” director Colleen Strang said. 
When Alice finally becomes a queen, she is immediately burdened with the real-world responsibilities of a ruler, like providing fresh water for Jack and Jill and keeping the peace among her people. She ultimately decides to relinquish her new title and return home to be a normal kid again. 
Alice’s coming-of-age, or rather, her purposeful lack thereof, is something to which the actors, being kids and teens themselves, can relate, Strang said.  
“Kids can’t wait to grow up and make their own decisions and be the boss, but they can’t imagine, at that age, what adults have to do: go to work, pay the bills, make sure there’s food on the table,” she said. “Alice sees that being in charge comes with a price, and she realizes that she’s not ready for that, and that’s OK. I think that idea resonates with many kids.” 
In Wonderland!, there is a white queen, portrayed as a peacemaker, and a red queen, who likes to stir the pot; one of the challenges to producing a play or musical based on a classic fairy tale, Strang said, is breaking out of the “good” and “evil” stereotypes, like that of the two queens, to develop characters who are more complex.  
“I try to encourage [the actors], especially the older teens, to imagine a backstory for their characters to give them more depth,” she said. “Anger, for example, seems like an easy emotion, but I ask them, how else can you play that? Maybe [the character] isn’t just angry. Maybe it’s more complicated than that.” 
The cast includes 37 kids ages 8 through 18. The Windham Actors Guild opens its youth productions to kids with all levels of theater experience, from kids who have performed with the prestigious Palace Theatre in Manchester, to kids who have never spoken in front of an audience before.  
“We try to make theater accessible to both the audience and the actors and [crew]. We try to reflect the community,” Strang said. “Everyone brings something different to the table, and when you bring together this cross-section of people, everyone learns and grows.”  

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