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“Disney’s Alice In Wonderland Jr”

I was delighted to be asked to review Parkfields Middle School’s end of year production, which was made all the more special because of the involvement of the whole year in the entire project, including the design of the scenery, costumes and props, plus the construction and painting of the set, the making of the costumes and the marketing of the show.  An ambitious project, but one that worked on all levels, and seeing a cast of 67 young people performing, with a further 52 supporting them by being involved in the technical side and marketing was a great joy.

The scenery was well-designed, and very colourful, I liked the chequered road, the vivid colours of the backcloth and the reversible screens – a good ploy to enable the change of scene quickly.

I was able to see the sketches and suggestions for costume and make-up, which the participants had brought to reality – it was a fantastic project for teaching so many different elements that will stand everyone involved in good stead for later life.

I went on the first night, but everything seemed to run very smoothly, with the cast giving their all.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and know the audience did.  Always something special about seeing their child on stage!  Plus other parents would have the satisfaction of knowing their child had been instrumental in bringing the production to fruition.

Because the cast was so big I can’t mention everyone by name as I usually try to do, but suffice to say everyone seemed to inject their own brand of enthusiasm into the production, some perhaps more than others, but all performing to their individual potential.

Musically we were treated to very well sung numbers, with everyone participating and giving a good full sound, that was very pleasing.

I liked the effect of the rabbit hole, and the related lighting – I note the lighting design was done by Paul Horsler, who is widely known in the area and has lots of good ideas, which enhanced the look and feel of the piece.

I liked the fact that on the whole everyone had tidy nicely done hair, with only a couple of exceptions, always a plus when using such highly iconic costumes, untidy hair detracts from the look.

It was good to see the parts broken down in some cases so that for example, three young ladies played the Cheshire Cat, all of who were very engaging and smiled a lot as they should!  

The three Alice’s were also well-conceived, but the main Alice, Ruby Thorne, really stood out as an accomplished performer.  I liked the Alice in the house, very well constructed to show she was supposed to be taller than the house.

It was a shame that the characters had to rely on stand mics, as at times we had some of the cast who did not stand close enough, so we did not get the full sound, and sometimes acting opportunities were missed because of the need to speak into the mic – but I can understand that it was not possible for them all to have radio mics.  I felt the Flower quintet needed to be a little more rehearsed in the technique of singing into the mic, as we missed some of their words in a charming song, and in Painting the Roses Red I needed the Cardsmen to be closer to the mics to get the full meaning of the words.

Certain cast members showed good projection and good mic technique, the young lady who stood out most in this area was Rebecca Haxell as the Queen of Hearts, who gave a rousing and well-acted performance.

I also liked Genie Jones as the Caterpillar, and the scene where she emerged as a butterfly was nicely managed.

The Mad Hatter was nicely played by Timothy Highnam, he had fantastic make-up, and was matched by Jamie Bailey-Smith as the March Hare.

We saw good movement in Ocean of Tears, and I thought Taylor Blacksley was a very full-on Dodo Bird – good stage presence  from this young man.

I also liked the movement in Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, it suited the mood of the song.

The use of the cast on the floor of the auditorium meant that the stage was kept uncluttered for the main action, worked really well, and meant that everyone was able to participate in the ensemble numbers, which they did very well.

The bows seemed a little rushed, I know there were a lot of people to get on and off, but in such a good production, it would have been nice to have had a little longer to appreciate the different factions of the cast fully, and I would have liked to see a really smiley cast as they took their bows, some were a little solemn, and I felt that Ruby Thorne’s Alice should have curtsied rather than bowed.  Just small points, but the bows are always the culmination of a lot of work and effort, so the audience always want to be able to be really appreciative.

I was really impressed that such a good standard could be achieved by 12 and 13 year olds, of varying talents and expertise, it was a very enjoyable evening which I was so happy to have been invited to.  I am looking forward now to next year, and hope I will be invited back again to witness a delightful evening’s entertainment.

Parkfields Middle School - 17th July 2013


Director & Choreographer:  Susie Conder

 MD:  Debbie Nicholls

Assistant Choreographer: Emily Taylor


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