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‘Alice by Heart’ Deals with Love and Loss and the Courage to Move Forward
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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Alice goes down a rabbit hole of a different ilk in “Alice by Heart,” the musical that Spot Young Company is putting on this week.

The Spot comes alive in a kaleidoscope of color and movement as 20 young adults in the tuition-free Spot Young Company recreate the story of a teenage girl named Alice Spencer who is forced to take refuge in a London Tube station during the London Blitz and confronts first love, loss and grief with the help of her favorite book “Alice in Wonderland.”

“ ‘Alice by Heart’ is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of a young girl coping with the loss of her best friend,” said Elyse Duffield, a Sun Valley Community School student who plays the Cheshire Cat. “Throughout the show, Alice encounters characters who are each a part of her and lead her to self-discovery. Being part of and getting to tell this story is such a special experience. This dark twist to this childhood-favorite story sheds light on many real-world issues that are important to talk about.”

The shows, which kicked off a with a student preview Tuesday night, quickly sold out, prompting The Spot to add an additional show at noon Sunday, Dec. 10. Tickets to that show are $15 and $25, available at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35975/production/1184073

Upon learning that her dear friend Alfred has tuberculosis, Alice encourages him to escape with her into the book and journey down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. But it’s not the conventional trip through Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel. Instead, she skips Chapter 3. She smokes with two caterpillars, receives advice from the Cheshire Cat and checks out the Lobster Quadrille with her friend Alfred who, as the White Rabbit is obsessed with running out of time.

Eventually, Alfred tires of being the White Rabbit and tries to convince Alice to finish the story early. He suffers a health setback and she is kept from going to him by the Jabberwock. Finally, the two return to the real world where Alice must learn to deal with loss and grief and move forward.

The music features music by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater and book by Sater and Jessie Nelson. It debuted at London’s Royal National Theatre in 2012.

"Performing this play is a special kind of experience because everyone knows the story of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ” said Marina Monschke, a Silver Creek high School student who portrays Clarissa and Mock4Turtle. “Some people know the musical ‘Alice by Heart,’ but no one knows our version of it. It is a truly unique and unseen experience.”

The musical opens up with a bang, as the audience is quickly ushered into the reality of London under siege. The bombing and sirens repeat themselves periodically, less anyone get complacent.

Choreographer Megan Mahoney and movement director Kevin Wade combine to use exaggerated movements in slow-motion dream-like sequences that are mesmerizing against the backdrop of Samuel Mollner’s waves of colored light that resemble the aurora borealis.

Costume designer Sarah Gorby has outfitted the youngsters in some eye-catching costumes. And Director Yanna Lantz has coaxed a lot out of the kids in what is a demanding musical.

"I’m beyond proud of the incredible teens in this project and all the dedication and magic they bring to this moving story,” said Lantz. “This is our most complicated Young Company musical to date. It is a visual feast, and everyone has risen to the challenge with grace and joy.”

The young actors say they love the opportunity to present a reimagined “Alice in Wonderland” story.

"It is inspiring to present this well-known story in a new light and discuss how we use the story of Alice to escape the real world and the evil that rages above us,” said Ida Belle Gorby, a Sun Valley Community School student who plays the Queen of Hearts, Red Cross Nurse and the dancing Lobster. “Escapism is very real and this retelling examines that concept from a young person's point of view."
Onni Peterson, a Wood River High School student who plays Mad Hatter and Harold Pudding concurred: “It has been interesting mainly because there are so many past interpretations of the story and characters, there's plenty to inspire how we perform different iconic moments from the story while still putting our twist on it."

Elena Tamayo, a Wood River high School student who plays Knave of Clubs and Mock2 Turtle, said that she loves working on a show that balances the fun and flamboyance of the original “Alice in Wonderland” with mature topics set during The Blitz of World War II.

Phoebe Everett Williams, who plays the Cheshire Cat, agreed: “ ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is one of the most well-known stories of all time and has been adapted through film, books, and theatre. Despite all of these different renditions, I feel like a sentimental story of Alice has yet to be successfully performed, which is why ‘Alice by Heart’ is such a lovely and inspirational story.

“While the characters in ‘Alice by Heart’ may seem similar to the original characters of wonderland, they definitely carry a lot more baggage and this show is the perfect way to uncover their life stories and how they all cope with their grief over losing a significant friend. Even though the world is falling into chaos, Alice still finds a way to transport herself and the rest of the characters in the bunker to the magical world of wonderland while also learning the valuable lesson of how to let the ones you love most go. This show challenges everyone to find an escape from reality but also creates awareness that we are all very much living in this reality we try so hard to run away from.”

Added Duffield: “Many people tend to hide behind a falsely positive reality, but ‘Alice by Heart’ challenges that. This show pulls cast and audience members down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, causing them to be faced with loss, war, and tragedy. Not only do I get to tell this story every night, but I get to experience the world of Wonderland. This experience has allowed me to spend time with talented people and love and share a beautiful story."

THE CAST AND DIRECTORS

Alice Spencer - Lizzie Loving
Caterpillar | Angus - Katie Gardiner

Caterpillar 2 | Knave of Hearts - Charlie Blake
Cheshire Cat | Tabatha - Elyse Duffield, Phoebe Everett Williams

Clarissa | Mock4 Turtle - Marina Monschke
Dormouse | Nigel - Frankie Duke

Duchess | Dodgy - Hunter Ervin
Jabberwock - Cassius Klingenfuss

King of Hearts | Mock Turtle | Dr. Butridge - Rowan Star
Knave of Diamonds - Ingrid Pratt

Mad Hatter | Harold Pudding - Onni Petersen

Mock2 Turtle | Knave of Clubs - Elena Tamayo 

Mock3 Turtle | Knave of Spades - Madi O'very

Queen of Diamonds - Anja Pratt  

Queen of Hearts | Lobster | Red Cross Nurse - Ida Belle Gorby
White Rabbit | March Hare | Alfred Hallam - Rick Vigueria

The director is Yanna Lantz; music director, R.L Rowsey; choreographer, Megan Mahoney, movement director, Kevin Wade and technical mentor, Samuel Mollner.

Costume design, sound board, makeup and wardrobe supervision is provided by Sara Gorby, Samuel Mollner, Reed Fowler, Gertie Pitts and Cooper Peak.

The Spot Young Company is a tuition-free project for Wood River Valley students in grades 9 through 12. Shows are held at The Spot on Lewis Street in Ketchum’s light industrial district.


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