Alice in Wonderland is a Fantasy with Music at All Beaches Experimental Theatre

Photo by Susan Roche

ABET, All Beaches Experimental Theatre, Alice in Wonderland, Photo by Susan Roche,
Photos by Susan Roche

A DUAL CRITICS ABET THEATER REVIEW

The All Beaches Experimental Theatre (ABET) opened Alice in Wonderland on May 10 at 544 Atlantic Boulevard in Neptune Beach, Florida. The show, sponsored by The Mary E. Haverty Foundation and John and Beverly Johnson, runs through May 26, 2019. Visit abettheatre.com or call 249-7177 for additional information and reservations.

The book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was written by Charles Dodson and published in 1865 under the pen name of Lewis Carroll. The book became a publishing sensation; Queen Victoria and Oscar Wilde were avid fans. It has never been out of print, has been published in over ninety languages, and continues to delight both children and adults.

ABET’s version is an adaptation with lyrics by Dave Alan Thomas, who teaches drama at Jacksonville’s First Coast High School. He is also an award-winning actor and director who is well known in the local theatre scene. He wanted a version that allowed creative staging and flexible casting, but was unable to find one; he solved the problem with a new script. (He also appeared in three roles in this production, most notably as the Cheshire Cat).

ABET, All Beaches Experimental Theatre, Alice in Wonderland, Photo by Susan Roche, Dave Alan Thomas
Dave Alan Thomas, Photo by Susan Roche

The revised script includes a dozen songs which introduce the chapters of the book; titles include “The Rabbit Routine,” “Caterpillar Creeps,” and “The Queen’s Croquet.” AJ Neaher is the Musical Director; he wrote the music and is on keyboard. He is a graduate of Jacksonville University and has been the chorus director at Robert E. Lee High School for fifteen years.

Kelby Siddons, who directed the show, is well known for her theatrical abilities; she is an excellent director, playwright, and actor.  

ABET, All Beaches Experimental Theatre, Alice in Wonderland, Photo by Susan Roche,
Photo by Susan Roche

The play is set in the early 1900s, an update from the Victorian times of the original story, and begins with a young girl – Alice, of course – on a sandy beach near a boardwalk attraction known as Wonderland. She soon finds herself falling down a rabbit hole into another world; a world of confusion, disorder, and strange creatures. Kristen Walsh is wonderful in this demanding role; she is almost constantly on stage throughout the show. She previously appeared at ABET in One Man, Two Guvnors, and has appeared in a number of other local productions.

Jack Perimenter’s only role is the striking White Rabbit. While his white suit and floppy ears are as expected, it is quite rare to see rabbits with beards.

The multi-talented Jason Woods has five roles; the most important are those of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. He also displays his remarkable vocal talents with puppet characters. His adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas Carol is a solo show which has been a hit on various stages for the past eight years.

ABET, All Beaches Experimental Theatre, Alice in Wonderland, Photo by Susan Roche,
Photo by Susan Roche

ABET veteran, Gretta Russe, appears as Duck and Duchess. Evie Day, an FSU graduate, is the Voice of Baby and the difficult-to-please Queen of Hearts. She previously appeared at ABET as Lady Macbeth.

Evan Gould appears as is Eaglet / Fish Footman / Gryphon and wears interesting costumes. He teaches drama and was chosen as Clay County Teacher of the Year for 2019. His resume could fill multiple pages, as he appears frequently on our local stages.

ABET, All Beaches Experimental Theatre, Alice in Wonderland, Photo by Susan Roche, Katie Johnston, Sommer Farhat
Katie Johnston and Sommer Farhat, Photo by Susan Roche,

Katie Johnson portrays four roles; the most demanding is that of Mock Turtle. She was recently seen in Theatre Jacksonville’s Peter Pan, which will be returning this summer

Sommer Farhat is making her ABET debut in the roles of Mouse / Frog Footman and Knight of Hearts. She is a versatile actress who has appeared in many productions at Theatre Jacksonville during the past few years, and has appeared as a Zombie in an award-winning film.

ABET, All Beaches Experimental Theatre, Alice in Wonderland, Photo by Susan Roche, David Lee Redding
David Lee Redding, Photo by Susan Roche

David Lee Redding is Caterpillar/ Cook / Executioner. He is a professional musician; his Executioner’s song was wildly appreciated.

Audrey Antee was the smiling animated musician who accompanied Musical Director Neaher. Her background includes music and ballet; she has only recently begin participating in community theatre.

ABET, All Beaches Experimental Theatre, Alice in Wonderland, Photo by Susan Roche, Audrey Antee, AJ Neaher
Audrey Antee and AJ Neaher, Photo by Susan Roche

Amy Tillotson was the costume designer, and this is certainly one of the most challenging plays she has ever costumed. In addition to costuming, she appears from time to time as an actor and/or stage manager. Special thanks go to Props Mistress Claire Cimino, who had lots and lots of items to keep in place during this show.

The set designed by Director Siddons was unique, as it allowed Alice to grow both small and large, as in the story. It was very well done.

ABET, All Beaches Experimental Theatre, Alice in Wonderland, Photo by Susan Roche,

Additional production team members included Randy Lessen (Stage Manager), Betsy Darnell (Light/Sound operator), Donna Lohesky (Assistant Costumer), Bryan Frank (Sound and Light Design), and Matt Tompkins & Kristen Walsh (Puppet Design).

ABET’S production is the world premiere of this entertaining musical. Children will love it and you will too – so don’t miss it.

And up next: ABET will be staging One By Tenn Plus Eight – Short Stories For The Stage June 28 – July 7, 2019. Visit abettheatre.com or call 249-7177 for additional information and reservations.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.
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