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'Alice in Wonderland' Truly Spans Generations

Chatham Community Players presents a family-friendly adaptation of a classic tale

Theaters like to promote their children’s shows as being enjoyable for all ages—and in the case of  staging of “Alice of Wonderland,” the multi-generational goodwill extends to the cast.

Actors ranging in ages from 10 to 70-plus will be taking stage in the show, running June 10 through 19. Alice, of course, is played by a child, 10-year-old Anya Gunewardena, but more interesting casting choices came with having 10-year-old Jacqueline Pothier playing the Queen of Hearts and septuagenarian N. Kent Loudon playing the King of Hearts.

“I went into the auditions saying anyone from 10 and up can audition, all roles are open to any age, so whoever comes in, I’ll know when I see them that that’s the right person for it,” director Kari A. Cooper said. “And that’s the way it worked.”

For anyone who’s spent his or her life in a rabbit hole, “Alice is Wonderland” is based on the classic children’s novel by Lewis Carroll. Its story of Alice chasing a rabbit into a magical world where she encounters strange characters like The Cheshire Cat, The Mad Hatter and the Mock Turtle has inspired countless adaptations.

Chatham’s staging uses a one-hour script written by Madge Miller. Cooper previously directed the script at , an all-girls school in Summit where she runs the drama department.

 “I just liked the script an awful lot, it’s a really fun adaptation,” she said. “And the girls had a wonderful time doing it.”

When Cooper was approached by Chatham about directing a show for its Fantasy Theater series for young audiences, she had a list of plays she liked, but “Alice” was always at the top.

“I felt this would be a fantastic piece, especially for families,” she said. “It speaks to families on different levels. When people come to see it, I hope the adults will be surprised by how much it’s really going to appeal to them and how much it will be funny to them as well as the children.”

What makes the script work, she said, is that it simplifies Lewis’ book while staying faithful to it.

“I think they have enough of the storyline without overburdening it because the book itself has tons in it, there’s just so much going on,” Cooper said. “And I think this script chose enough of the interesting elements without it being too much [like] Disney. It’s much closer to the original book.”

In creating Lewis’ fantasy world, Cooper said, the show features a minimalist set. That the fantasy is expressed through the actors’ performances and through costumes designed by Ashley Madison.

“She volunteered for this, and we talked to her about what the concept was for it, and she started bringing in sketches, and I just loved her ideas,” Cooper said. 
“She had really super-creative ideas. She would take one idea that I would have and jump off with it and go in another direction. We just worked very well together.”

When asked if she has a favorite moment from the play, Cooper said she used to, but the actors she’s working with have changed that.

“Because of what the actors have done on stage and really made it their own, there are so many parts of it I love now,” she says.

Her ultimate hope is that her “Alice in Wonderland” will entertain parents as well as their kids.

“They might be thinking it’s going to drag and they’re doing it for their kids,” she said. “But hopefully it will also be something they will remember and enjoy with their children and talk about afterward.”

Alice in Wonderland will be performed at The Chatham Playhouse, 23 N. Passaic Ave. in Chatham, June 10 through 19. Tickets cost $10. For tickets and information, call 973-635-7363 or go to ChathamPlayers.org.

THE ON STAGE SCOOP 

Nutley’s the Place to “Bee:” Nutley Little Theatre is presenting “The 15th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee” June 10 to 25. In the Tony-winning hit, six over-achieving students compete in the ultimate spelling bee while dealing with their parents, who behave more childishly than the kids. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. The theater is located at 47 Erie Place in Nutley. Tickets cost $18, $16 seniors/students. For information, call 973-667-0374 or go to NutleyLittleTheatre.com.

Come and Meet Those Dancing Feet: The musical classic “42nd Street” will tap its way to Villagers Theatre in Somerset, June 10 to 26. The song-and-dance extravaganza tells the story of Peggy Sawyer, a young actress who has her heart set on Broadway, but misses her chance to audition, but then catches the eye of the director. The show’s songs include “You’re Getting To Be a Habit with Me,” “We're In the Money” and “Lullaby of Broadway.” Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $18, or $16 for seniors and students. Call 732-873-2710 or go to VillagersTheatre.com for more information. The theater is located at 475 DeMott Lane in Somerset.

Laughing in Morristown: Brian Regan will bring his stand-up act to  in Morristown on June 10 for an 8 p.m. concert. Regan is one of the most acclaimed comics of his generations and is a regular on Comedy Central and The Late Show With David Letterman. Tickets cost $50 to $60. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

This Bull Won’t Fight: Hudson Vagabond Puppets will perform “Ferdinand the Bull” at the in Morris Township on June 11 at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. The story of the peaceful bull is told with giant puppets in a narrated ballet with a larger-than-life bull, masked dancers, and specialized mechanical figures. The presentation includes an on-stage demonstration of techniques to resolve problems without fighting. For kids ages 5 through 8. For information, call 973-971-3706 or go to MorrisMuseum.org/bickford.

You’ll Want to Stay Awake For This: The Tony-winning musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” will take stage at  in Montville through June 11. The show by Bob Marin and Don McKellar (book) and Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison (music and lyrics) is about a musical coming to life in the home of a theater lover when he plays the cast recording. The cast includes Lynn Hart, Kate Weigl and Billy Brisley. Scott Hart directs. The theater is located at 32 Skyline Drive in Montville. Tickets cost $20, discounts for seniors and students are available for Sunday matinees. For information, call 973-334-9320, e-mail boxoffice@barntheatre.org or go to BarnTheatre.org.

African Sounds in Morristown: The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir will perform a concert at  in Morristown June 11 at 8 p.m. The choir performs a unique African repertoire, which includes traditional works like "Shosholoza" and "Night Sounds," where the boys imitate the sounds of the African Bush. They also perform  "Gumboot Dance," which originated on the South African mines and uses authentic African instruments and body percussion. Tickets cost $10 to $50. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Audition Alert, “Split:” Nutley Little Theatre will hold auditions for Michael Weller’s “Split” June 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. Those auditioning will be asked to read selections from the play, which will be provided at the audition. Bring a headshot and resume if available. Callbacks will be held on June 15 at 7:30 p.m. if necessary. The theater describes the play as “An offbeat mix of melancholy and hilarity” that “explores the breakup of ‘the perfect couple’ when they discover there is really no such thing. Add in a couple of meddling married swingers with problems of their own, a waiter improvising a fairytale, a real estate honcho with a runaway video camera, and a possible 'other woman.' The result: a serio-comic plate of relationship mayhem unique to big city life in the '70s.” The cast consists of four men and three women. Character descriptions can be found on the theater’s website. Performance dates are Sept. 9 through 24. Auditions are at the Nutley Little Theatre Barn, 47 Erie Place in Nutley. For information, call 973-667-0374 or go to NutleyLittleTheatre.com.

Annual Meeting at Dover Little Theatre: Patrons of Dover Little Theatre are encouraged to attend the theater’s annual meeting on June 13 at 8 p.m. The agenda includes elections for the Dover Little Theatre’s Board of Directors (executive officers and members at large). If you want to find out more about the DLT, you’ll want to attend. The theater is located on Elliott Street in Dover. For information, call 973-328-9202 or go to Doverlittletheatre.org.

Keeping it Real with “The Misanthrope:”  will open its 2011-12 season with Moliere’s “The Misanthrope” through 26. John Patrick Hayden stars as Alceste, whose disdain for hypocrisy doesn’t keep him from falling in love with Celimente (Elizabeth Ann Davis), who exhibits the very behavior Alceste despises. Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs. Tickets start at $32. For tickets and information, call 973-408-5600 or go to ShaksepeareNJ.org.

Audition Alert, “Godspell:” Pax Amicus Castle Theatre in Budd Lake will hold open cast calls for “Godspell” on June 7 at 7 p.m. and June 11 at 1 p.m. The theater is seeking adults and teens over 16 who are exuberant, high-energy performers. Prepare a song from the show. Everyone, including beginners, is welcome to audition, have fun and meet people. Performances are July 20 through Aug. 30. The theater is located at 23 Lake Shore Road in Budd Lake. Call 973-691-2100 for more information.

Audition Alert, “Meet Me in St. Louis:”  will hold auditions for “Meet Me in St. Louis” on June 7 and 9 at 7 p.m. with callbacks on June 12 at 7 p.m. Bring sheet music of your choice, sides will be provided. “Meet Me in St Louis” is an adaptation of the movie musical that starred Judy Garland. Set in the early 1900s it is the story of the Smith family and its joys and tribulations in a time when things were simpler—or were they? Humor, love and respect tell the family story enhanced by memorable musical numbers, “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song,” “Whenever I'm With You” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” among others. Performances are Nov. 4 through 19. Auditions are at the playhouse, located at 10 New England Ave. in Summit. Click here for more information, including a character breakdown, andhere for directions.

Inspiring Sounds: The Choir of the Pope’s Diocese of Rome will perform at in Morristown on June 8 as part of its first U.S. tour. The program will feature classical pieces and original works by the Choir’s founder, Don Marco Frisina that are both spiritual and inspirational. The concert will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $27 to $77. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Awards Show: The Growing Stage children’s theater in Nutley will host its annual Ovation Awards on June 8 at 7 p.m. The theater celebrates the accomplishments of the year and recognizes the support of patrons and artists who helped make the season possible. In addition to handing out awards, the theater will also announce its 30th anniversary, including readings of selections from each work. The event is open to everyone and is free of charge. The theater asks that people make reservations by calling 973-347-4946 or emailingboxoffice@growingstage.com.

All That Jazz:  Jazz Summerfest continues with a concert by by guitarist Frank Vignola on June 13 at 8 p.m. Vinny Raniolo and Zach Brock will perform with Vignola. Tickets cost $18, $15 advanced. The season will continue with a concert by Bob Seeley on June 20. The theater is located at the Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morris Township (with a Morristown mailing address). For tickets and information, call 973-971-3706 or click here

Get Everything in Order, Then Go See Out of Order: The improv group Out of Order will perform a benefit comedy show for on June 18 at 7:30 p.m. In the words of the Playhouse’s website, “proceeds will go to support our upcoming season ... and pay for our new chairs ... and fix the plumbing ... and ...” Tickets cost $15. For information go toSummitPlayhouse.org. The Playhouse is located at 10 New England Ave. in Summit.

New Play Reading: Tri-State Actors Theater will present a reading of Owen Dunne’s “The Girl From Tennessee” on June 18 at the Olde Village Bookseller in Lafayette. The staged concert reading will be performed by professional actors and will be followed by a talk-back session. Admission is by donation. For information, call 973-875-2950 or go to TriStateActorsTheater.org.

Audition Alert, “Bug:”  will hold open auditions for Tracy Letts’ “Bug” on June 20 and 22 at 7 p.m. at The Chatham Playhouse, 23 N. Passaic Ave. in Chatham. All roles are open, none are precast and everyone is encouraged to audition. For information, contact Kristin Furlong at 732-208-4184 or kristinbarber33@yahoo.com. According to the theater’s website, “Bug” is a “mind-bending tale of love, paranoia and government conspiracy—a  psycho-thriller that mixes terror and laughter at fever pitch … a high speed roller coaster ride into a crawling, buzzing, stinging nightmare.” For directions and information about the play, go toChathamPlayers.org.

Merry Wanderers of the Night: will present its annual outdoor shore, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” July 22 through 31. Performances are at the Greek amphitheater at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morris Township. The theater promotes the 90-minute production as being perfect for children and families of all ages. For tickets and information, call 973-408-5600 or go to ShakespeareNJ.org.

Auditions at the Women’s Theatre Co.: The Women’s Theatre Co. in Parsippany will hold auditions for two musicals, “They’re Playing Our Song” and “Baby” on June 9, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Prepare a short song in the style of the musical you are auditioning for and a short monologue. Rehearsals will be days with some nights, 20 hours a week. Bring a picture and resume, stapled together. E-mail info@womenstheater.org to schedule an audition time. Show dates for “They’re Playing Our Song” are in September and October. “Baby” runs in March 2012. Auditions are at the Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road in Lake Hiawatha. Go to Womenstheater.org for more information.

Doo the Doo Wop:  in Morris Township will present a lecture about doo wop music by Charlie Horner, as part of the exhibit, “Jersey Rocks: A History of Rock & Roll in the State.” Horner has been described as “one of the foremost authorities on early rhythm & blues and vocal group music” by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland. He’ll present a history of doo wop and R&B vocal group music. These multi-media programs include rare photographs of singers, record labels, sheet music and memorabilia. Part 1 is on June 8 at 6:30 p.m., Part 2 is on June 15 at 6:30 p.m. Admission for one lecture costs $20, or $15 for  museum members (it's $35, or $25 for members, to attend both lectures). Arrive between 5 and 5:30 p.m. to meet members of well-known New Jersey doo wop groups who will be greeting attendees and signing autographs. Tickets to this event includes admission to the “Jersey Rocks” exhibition prior to the presentations. On view through Sept. 5, “Jersey Rocks” explores rock & roll’s history in the Garden State, where performers, technology and talent created sounds that dominated radio airwaves. The exhibit includes displays devoted to Les Paul, The Young Rascals, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Bill Haley and His Comets (who debuted “Rock Around the Clock” in Wildwood) and others. Call 973-538-0154 or go toMorrisMuseum.org for more information.

Get Dancing: , the Arts Council of the Morris Area and the United Methodist Church present their second annual Music Without Borders free summer outdoor lunchtime concert series on the Morristown Green. The series begins June 22 and runs every other Wednesday through August 3. Concerts run from noon to 1:30 p.m. First up this summer is Chia’s Dance Party on June 22. The New York City-based band delivers a unique musical experience where infectious danceable grooves mix harmoniously with extensive compositional and improvisational work. The band performs original material inspired by the Colombian rhythmic and melodic traditions, yet explores different genres and compositional approaches. The band features Ben Stapp on tuba, Alex Terrier on soprano saxophone and Justin Wood on alto sax. Go to MayoArts.org for more information.

Summer Camp at Growing Stage: Registration is open for Growing Stage Theatre in Netcong’s Summer Arts Day Camp, beginning July 11 and continuing for five weeks through Aug. 12. Weekly sessions run Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and end with a Camp Show at 7 p.m. on Friday evening. Tuition begins at $250 per week. Complete information can be found here.

Next Season at Villagers: Villagers Theatre in Somerset has announced its 2011-12 season, which will begin with the romantic comedy “Cactus Flower,” Sept. 16 through Oct. 2. Next up is Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera  “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Nov. 4 through 20. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is scheduled for Feb. 3 through 19 followed by the French comedy “A Flea in Her Ear” March 16 through April 1. The classic musical “The Music Man” will wrap things up June 8-24. For information, call 732-873-2710 or go to VillagersTheatre.com.

A Season of Music and Laughter: The Women’s Theatre Co. in Parsippany has announced its 2011-12 season. The musical “They’re Playing Our Song” will open the season in September. The show features music by Marvin Hamlisch and Carol Bayer Sager, and a book by Neil Simon. Next up is Beth Henley’s comedy “Crimes of the Heart” in November. David Shire's, Richard Malby Jr.’s and Sybille Pearson’s musical “Baby” will take stage in March of 2012, followed by “Southern Comforts,” a comedy by Kathleen Clark. A bonus production, “A Person of Interest” will take stage next June. Click here for information.

Camp Shakespeare:  has started enrollment for its summer educational programs, which offer training in classical theater by professional theater artists for middle- and high school-aged students. Applications for the Junior and Senior Corps are now being accepted. Returning students or children of 2011 season subscribers receive a $100 discount. To sign up for an audition slot, or for more information, call 973-408-3980 or email Classes@shakespearenj.org.

Playwrights Theatre Summer Programs: Registration is open for summer programs at the . Acting Lab for grades 4 through 6 allows kids to act, play and be creative in a supportive, process-oriented class with an emphasis on play-building skills through improvisation, theater exercises and group collaboration. Five sessions will take place over the summer, with the first session starting June 20. Playwrights will also hold the Full Day Theatre Camp for grades seven through nine, offering daily classes in acting technique, play production, musical performance and playwriting. Sessions will start July 5 and July 18. The theater’s website notes that if class attendance numbers are not met by registration deadlines, classes will be canceled. Click here for more information about the full-day camp and here for more information about the acting lab.

Registration for Summer Theater Camps: Brundage Park Playhouse in Randolph has announced its 30th season of summer performing arts education with the return of three programs. Summer Stages is a workshop for young performers ages 8 through 14 who have completed second grade or higher during the 2010-11 school year; staff instructs students in acting, music and dance, and each two-week session will end with a production for audiences of parents, relatives and friends. The Advanced Performers Workshop is open to students who are already at least 12 and will be entering seventh through 11th grades in the 2011-2012 season. Admission is by audition and interview. Students will spend part of their time in rehearsal for whatever show they are working on, and part of their time in workshops on various aspects of theater arts. The Budding Stars program is designed for children ages 5 to 7. Students will also create simple props and costumes for skits, fairy tales and children’s stories they perform. For pricing, schedules and registration, go to RandolphNJ.org, click on “Parks and Recreation,” and click on “Online Registration.” You can also register in person at the Parks and Recreation Department, located in the Senior Community Center on Calais Road, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 973-989-7092.

Got news for On Stage? E-mail Louis@Patch.com.

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