Local playwrights bring world premiere of “Alice in Wonderland” to SCERA’s Theatre for Young Audiences Feb. 6-24

(Orem, Utah) – Local actors, directors and playwrights Chase Ramsey and David Smith knew they wanted to create a musical work for young people based on “Alice in Wonderland.” After all, who isn’t delighted by the motley crew of charming characters that inhabit Alice’s world?

But just like the dreamy and confused Alice, they did not know quite what to make of it.

“It’s a wonderful story, but because we wrote it for children, we want them to leave with a meaningful message,” says Smith, who composed the music and lyrics and did much of the choreography. “We finally decided we could create a witty script that let children understand the importance of taking their teachers—and by extension, their school work—seriously.”

“I guess we wanted a bit of a challenge,” Ramsey adds. “I personally never understood the overarching message of the book and wanted to unravel it. Dave and I want to create musicals that will be seen because that is the best way to share messages. ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is popular, and we wanted to solve its riddles and share them with Utah.”

The result is the latest in a Ramsey/Smith musical theater collaboration that began with last year’s “Peter Pan’s Great Adventure” and will join a growing library of Theatre for Young Audiences works available for licensing through SCERA. “Alice in Wonderland” will premiere Feb. 6 and continue Monday and Friday evenings @ 7:00pm for six public performances through Feb. 24.  Morning matinees for school field trips, an important element of SCERA’s educational programming, are sold out.

Evening show tickets are reserved seating and are $6 for adults and $4 for children age 3-11 and $4 for seniors 65 and older.  Tickets may be obtained at www.scera.org, by calling (801) 225-ARTS, or in person at the main office at SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 South State, Orem, open 10am-6m weekdays and Saturdays from 12Noon-6pm.

In this original one-hour musical, know-it-all Alice is a disruptive student who pushes her hapless teachers to their wits’ ends. She thinks rules don’t apply to her until she falls asleep one day and enters a sphere where her teachers have become the characters of Wonderland. Through a series of adventures, Alice realizes her idealized look at life through a looking glass is nonsensical and not nearly as valuable as her real world.

“Both Chase and I had a period in school where we struggled to figure out the point of it all,” Smith says. “I talked with my mom and she said some things that changed how I perceived school. I used some of that period in my life in which to place Alice. Through the Queen of Hearts, she learns the value of following rules and listening to people who are trying to help her.”

Ramsey says he will feel “privileged if audiences feel anything from the work beyond its playful party atmosphere. I do hope the play will serve as a reminder that rules are there to protect us, because that knowledge is truly powerful. There is value in being a good member of society.”

Entertainment, however, is a key objective. “We have had children watching the rehearsals as sort of a focus group,” says Smith. “And I see them mouthing the words and sometimes singing along. I hope our audiences do the same.”

“Every character has a good time playing,” Ramsey adds. “It truly is a playground filled with wonderfully eclectic music that will bring the kids bouncing from their chairs. The world is fantastic and goofy, and we haven’t taken away from that piece of brilliance Lewis Carroll penned years ago.”

Smith had an especially fun time creating music that literally appeals to all musical tastes. His score encompasses rap, swing, boy bands, and more traditional music. He used Chinese and Persian instrumentation for the Cheshire Cat and different parts of Wonderland to make that world a little more exotic. The music was digitized through a sound library company, and Smith then retrieved the sounds through his own keyboard.  An original cast recording will become digital tracks available for perusal by other theatre companies, with SCERA acting as a publishing company.

Eight actors comprise the cast, with Kelly Coombs in the lead role of Alice. Adding to her magical experience are Nate Brogan as the Mad Hatter; Keegan Briggs as the March Hare and one of the Tweedle Dee; Nic Thomas as the caterpillar; Tanner Perkins as the White Rabbit; Jacob Porter as Tweedle Dum; Brandi Washburn as the Queen of Hearts; and Tearza Foyston as the Cheshire Cat.

Ramsey and Smith have performed as actors together at Hale Center Theater Orem, and their friendship led to a collaboration that began with a musical version of “Shrek” at SCERA.

“I had the idea of writing a musical for SCERA because I had grown up there and believe I owe them my life,” Ramsey says. “I reached out to Dave, and he loved the idea. We are both incredibly blessed to have a theater like SCERA with its youth programs. My collaboration with Dave so far is flawless and filled with our common goals, drive and passion.”

Assisting the playwrights are Shawn M. Mortensen, scenic designer; Deborah Bowman, costume designer; Elizabeth Griffiths, lighting designer; Christy Norton, props designer; Kendall Bowman, audio engineer and Danielle Berry, stage manager.

SCERA’s Theatre for Young Audiences program produces two one-hour musical each year, performed by adult actors and usually based on children’s literature.  “This educational component is an important part of our mission,” says SCERA President & CEO Adam J. Robertson.  “It’s a great way to introduce children to the magic of live theatre, and parents will enjoy themselves as well.”

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