Alice played by Julia Van Dam and Jessica Bordley as the Red Queen run a scene from the Red Deer College Theatre Studies production of Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Curious in a contrary land

In the Looking Glass world magically created this week on the Red Deer College Arts Centre stage, Alice discovers she has to run forward in order not to fall back.

In the Looking Glass world magically created this week on the Red Deer College Arts Centre stage, Alice discovers she has to run forward in order not to fall back.

Her new acquaintance, the White Queen, remembers things best that happen the week after next. And while one can’t help growing older, according to a snappish Humpty Dumpty, “two can!”

Such nonsense might make a lesser girl forget herself, but the unflappable seven-and-a-half-year-old heroine of the entertaining Red Deer College Theatre Studies musical production of Alice Through the Looking Glass that opened on Thursday isn’t about to let that happen.

No way, and in the word of Tweedle Dum: “Nohow!”

In fact, when the Red Queen advises Alice “Remember who you are!” she might have saved her royal breath.

Unlike some overwhelmed, intimidated or plain scared Alices in other stage productions of the Lewis Carroll literary classic and its sequel, this Alice is exactly as sure of her opinions as are most determined seven years olds.

This imaginative musical adaptation by Jim DeFelice and Larry Reese has a rather fanciful, straight-up vision that’s neither dark and creepy as the 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie starring Johnny Depp, nor dripping with Disney syrup.

Alice (played here by an amiable Julia Van Dam) is very much like Carroll must have originally envisioned his young heroine to be — a capable and curious young miss who takes everything in stride, from a bread-and-butter-fly that flutters past, to a knight with a droopy lance, or a giant egg with a rotten disposition.

Van Dam’s Alice might dress in a flouncy pink skirt, but she won’t settle for being a mere princess — she wants to be queen. And all she has to do to attain her golden crown is to reach the eighth square of a giant chess game before dark.

The well-placed, one-and-a-half-hour production, creatively directed by Lynda Adams, with music arrangements by the talented Morgan McKee, will be a delightful experience for the young, or young at heart — especially the visually stunning first half.

It starts with a shadow screen that messes, quite appropriately, with actors’ sizes. As soon as Alice goes through the looking glass, she meets a series of memorable characters who are more quirky than scary — such the Tweedles Dee and Dum and a talking gnat.

And the spinning chess board set and costumes, respectively by Cindi Zuby and Angela Dale, are bursting with colour and innovation. (The costumed crow is particularly spectacular.)

Most importantly, the genius of Carroll’s words stands out in this adaptation — as does much of his verse, with Walrus and the Carpenter, A-Sitting on a Gate and the Fish Riddle turned into songs by Reese (the RDC Motion Picture Arts instructor proves with these tunes written in 1974 that he could have had a promising music career).

The only difficulty is the second half of the play didn’t measure up to the excitement and tension of the first. But an action-packed scene in which the red and white knights fight it out apparently was scrapped, due to a costume mishap, during the opening night performance — so the lack of action will likely not be a factor when this scene is reinserted for the rest of the play’s run.

The cast is uniformly good — especially Van Dam, the only actor who doesn’t juggle two to four different parts.

Jessica Bordley and Collette Radau are most winning as the somewhat bossy Red and White Queens. Dustin Funk is a standout as the Gnat and Humpty Dumpty. Jessie Muir and Jennifer Suter are a riot as the perfectly spherical Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and Jake Tkaczyk puts in solid performances as the Storyteller and White King.

All in all, Alice Through the Looking Glass will immerse audience members from age four to 104 into a converse, contrary world where anything is possible — and for an hour and a half, it will be a fine place to be.

The play runs to Nov. 30.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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