O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Last night (sort of a the last minute), we went over the the Horseshoe Theatre at LA Valley College to see the Theatre Arts Department’s production of Alicen. We had been alerted to the production through divasteph on Facebook (production page), and had been debating going, but it wasn’t until yesterday that we knew for sure nsshere’s schedule.

Alicen is a new play based off of the two main Alice stories (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, as well as other Alice-related writings of Charles Dodgson). The new adaptation was developed by Christopher Coddington (who also directed the production), and is relatively faithful to the books (the first act being “Wonderland”, the second act being “Looking Glass”). As this was a reasonably faithful adaptation, I won’t retell the stories, other than to note that most of the well-known incidents are included, but contrariwise, some of them have been left out. This faithfullness led to an extremely long play (clocking in at 3 hours, with each act approximately 90 minutes). I’ll note that this is one of the first productions of this adaptation, and thus is in some sense a workshop: thus I’ll suggest that the play could use with some trimming and tightening for the audience does feel the length of the production.

Although I refer to Alicen as a play, it is in reality a musical, with music by Matt Sheridan and Eric Killian (perhaps better known as “The Modlins”), with additional music and arrangements by Shane Richardson, Stephanie Pressman, Richard Rossi, and Crystal Castillo. The songs are mostly adaptations of the poems in the stories, and run the range from folk to rap (the rap version of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” is particularly amusing). I also enjoyed the musicalization of “Jabberwocky”. Within the show, the “band” consists primarily of Stephanie Pressman and Shane Richardson (both of whom sing and play guitar), as well as some other cast members who also play guitar and sing. I found the music very entertaining, especially some of the duets where the voices blended quite beautifully. I’ve heard rumors of a recording of the score — if that pans out, it would be a wonderful preservation of the delightful tunes.

The acting ensemble was quite talented, and speaks well of the theatre arts program at LAVC. In the lead, playing the Wonderland Alice (there was also a young-Alice and an adult-Alice) was Crystal Castillo. Ms. Castillo was remarkable in the role, showing strong singing and dancing abilities as well as good acting abilities. Another remarkable cast member was Richard Rossi [] as Charles Dodgson/White Knight. I found him enjoyable as Dodgson, but even more enjoyable as the White Knight, where he was having fun with the role and seemingly ad-libbing (which I later learned was scripted, making him even stronger in my book). Also enjoyable were Timothy Miller [] (Lewis Carroll; Dormouse; Red King) and Marina Gywnn [] (Alice Liddell).

Others in the large ensemble (more) — which was quite talented — were: Norma Arroyo [] (Edith Liddell), Simon Benjamin (Baby/Pig; Gardener 5; Ensemble), Bethany Bodin [] (Tiger Lily; Ensemble)), Adam Cloud [] (Fish Footman; Red Knight; Ensemble), Shawn Conklin (Caryl Hargreaves; Knave of Hearts), Nick DeNicola [] (Robinson Duckworth; King of Hearts), Courtnie Di Piazza [] (Red Queen; Miss Prickett), Julio Dominguez (Tweedledum; Ensemble), Nina Donato (Duchess), Cloey Eo (Frog Footman; Gardener 7; Ensemble), Leslie Holland (Ensemble), Azmyth Kaminski (Caterpiller), Katherine Ko [] (Lorina Liddell), Sherrie Lewandowski [] (Queen of Hearts), Alvyn Lopez (Gardener 2; Ensemble), Carlo Maghirang [] (Mad Hatter), Angela Manetti (Fawn; Ensemble), Lyle Middleton (Executioner; White King), Addison Randall [] (Humpty Dumpty), Shandar Robinson (Cook; Rose; Ensemble), Colleen Shelley (White Queen), Johnathan Solarte (Cheshire Cat), Theresa Strand [] (March Hare), and Andrew Wolf [] (White Rabbit).

Turning to the technical side: The Horseshoe Theatre at LAVC is a small facility, sitting the audience in a few rows around 3 sides of the stage. No amplification is necessary. Lighting, however, is. The lighting design was by P. T. Fogger, and had both strong and weak points. The strong point was the use of four spots such that they weren’t noticable. The weak point were the scollers, which were left on when the colors were changed, creating this districting color cavalcade when not-adjacent color changes occurred. The lighting board operators were Cullen Pinney and Stacey Cortez, with Jason Alexander, Danie Danebrock, Jason Henderson, and Matthew Miller as spot operators. The costumes, by Judy Ashton, where quite clever in their use of available resources (which, being a community college production, were limited). The set, designed by Cathy Susan Pyles [], was minimalistic, consisting of some steel frameworks and various props. Danielle DeMasters served as stage manager, assisted by Stacey Cortez [] and Nicole Ruiz [].

Being a musical, there was a fair amount of dance and movement, which was quite good and varied. The dance ranged from ballet-like moves, to ensemble pieces, to rap style movements. The choreography was by Ashleigh Lonning, assisted by Crystal Castillo.

Alicen has 3 more performances: May 7, 8, and 9 at 8:00pm at LAVC. Call 818 947-2790 for reservations. Ticket prices are $15 for general admission, $10 for seniors/students. ETA: You can see a video sample of the show here.

Lastly, I should note that this is the first production we’ve heard of at LAVC: it would be nice if they had a mailing list so we could learn of future productions (hint, hint).

One last little note on the production: It reminded me of my copy of the book “The Annotated Alice”, which was given to me by my brother before he died, and which I still have. A nice memory to have return.

Upcoming Theatre: Next Saturday, we’re going down to Long Beach to see “Is He Dead? at ICT Long Beach. May 17 will be “big” at West Coast Ensemble, to be followed by “The Green Room at Hermosa Beach Playhouse on May 24 (pending ticketing). The end of May (May 28, 29, 30) brings Fiddler on the Roof” at Nobel Middle School, where nsshere is doing the lighting design. On June 6 @ 8pm we’re scheduled for “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” at Repertory East Playhouse, but since we saw that when they did it two years ago, we’re planning to switch to “Fat Pig” in their “81 series” on July 11. As this opens up June 6, we might go to the last weekend of “Marry Me a Little/The Last 5 Years” at East/West Players. Lastly, June 20 @ 8pm is “The Little Foxes” at The Pasadena Playhouse.