Theater Info for the Washington DC region

WT Woodson High School Alice in Wonderland

By • May 11th, 2012 • Category: Cappies

Nonsensical, colorful, larger than life, Alice in Wonderland is an almost irresistible choice for high school production. With its outlandish characters, delightfully illogical plot, and the dreamlike quality of its fantasy world, it allows for unbounded creativity. Thus, we often hold dissimilar views of what “Alice” should be: from the colorful Disney animated classic, to gritty modernized adaptations, to the darkly whimsical CGI-riddled Burton film. Yet, the students of WT Woodson High School achieved an admirable feat when they created a bold Victorian steampunk edition, standing out from the bustling crowd of adaptations with their impeccably executed tech, energetic, eclectic ensemble, and commitment to the creation of steampunk wonderland.

The illustrious history of Alice in Wonderland begins in mid-nineteenth century, with Lewis Carroll’s celebrated novels, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and “Through the Looking Glass.” These classic tales enumerate the experiences of a young girl named Alice, who falls down a rabbit hole into the fantastic, illogical, even terrifying world of Wonderland; a land full of anthropomorphic creatures who declare to a bewildered Alice “everyone’s mad here.” This basic premise anchors the rest of the plot that has been warped and twisted in its many adaptations in film, musicals, ballets, stage plays, and operas spanning nearly the past two centuries.

While almost every technical aspect of W.T. Woodson’s production was impeccably crafted, its costuming stood apart with its particular brilliance of both design and execution. Gorgeous Victorian frocks and corsets adorned the queens, the exotic caterpillar’s multitude of bracelet-decorated arms moved in flowing synchronicity, and the animalistic characteristics of the Mock Turtle and Frog-footman were suggested subtly through color, detailing and silhouette. This alone would have provided for an impeccable production, yet they were elevated still by the brilliantly industrial steampunk aesthetic. The collaboration between costumes and makeup allowed for seamless transformations, as they morphed the Cheshire Cat’s face into an eerie grin, positioning goggles as eyes atop his head and using his whole face to create the classic smile. The professionalism and creativity in this production’s special effects was illustrated in the effortless management of extensive flight rigging and harnessing, which allowed Alice to swim through the flowing, bubbly sea of tears. Original music, composed skillfully by Arjun Baxter, created a uniquely fast-paced, almost digitized sound to the production.

Molly Jacob tackled the immensely difficult role of Alice. As the one straight character in a fantasy world, Alice is often perceived as unremarkable. Yet, like everything else in this production, Jacob took a unique approach to the role. She captured Alice’s immaturity and pervasive sense of superiority, constantly scolding the wonderland characters for their nonsensical behavior and logic.

The entire ensemble of wonderland creatures was incredible, carrying this show with a fantastic energy and deep commitment to their own unique interpretations of their characters. Peter Moses’s utterly wacky March Hare was impeccable, as he flitted spastically about the stage, moving with a lightning-paced, staccato physicality through the tea party. Ana Mendelson’s portrayal of a scatterbrained White Queen was excellent as she drifted across Alice’s path, unkempt and distraught. The mastery of comedy demonstrated at W.T. Woodson was remarkable, from Caroline Wienroth’s delightfully intoxicated caterpillar, to the uproarious dry humor of Jack Carey’s bumbling mock turtle.

In the grand history of Alice in Wonderland, it is easy for a humble high school production to be swallowed into the immense shadows of its predecessors. The talent, energy, and overwhelming skill of the students at W.T. Woodson, however, allowed this production to shine with a new light of its own.

by Siena Richardson of McLean High School

Photo Gallery

Caroline Weinroth Ana Mendelson, Molly Jacob
Caroline Weinroth
Ana Mendelson, Molly Jacob

Photos by Jenna Howe

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