'Alice in Wonderland' at Guild Festival Theatre, Scarborough, Ontario

Guild Festival Theatre, Scarborough, Ontario

Raph Nogal

Joe Szekeres

Earlier in April of this year, I wondered how Bad Hats Theatre would present its version of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ online. Could that literary classic work as a live family musical on that platform? Surprisingly, it did.

Director Tyler Seguin and Production Designer Nancy Anne Perrin with assistance from Simon Flint have effectively staged their ‘Alice’ quite differently from Bad Hats. At one point, Alice says, “I must remember I’m not at home and things seem far curiouser and curiouser.” Now that we’re in Phase 3 of the provincial re-opening and can watch live productions physically distanced outdoors, could the curiosity, the magic, the silliness, and the humour of GFT’s ‘Alice’ be re-captured once again a few months later?

Yes, indeed, these qualities of her story vibrantly shone for me on this dog day summer opening night in Scarborough, despite one rust spot quibble that I will address shortly.

The Greek amphitheater in the beautiful Guild Park & Gardens was a primo bonus to tell Alice’s story. Just a reminder for future audiences to bring bug spray as those danged insects were certainly on hand all around me.

There was so much to admire about the look of and sounds in this ‘Alice’, and particular attention must be paid to Nancy Anne Perrin and Simon Flint. From my front row perch, almost dead centre, it was splendid to behold their intricate work involved. The stage setting as we entered remained simple. Large children’s building blocks in different colours effectively angled spelled the protagonist’s name. These blocks emphasized our entering the vision of a child’s world, and the design vision appealingly expanded further as the show progressed.

Who knew that a few deftly handled hula hoops and an awesome sound from what looked to be twirling pool noodles represented Alice’s fall into Wonderland after chasing the Rabbit down the hole? The puppetry design of the caterpillar was extraordinary to watch. The actors controlling the puppet finely worked in synchronicity with each other to ensure the realism of the caterpillar’s movements. Great fun.

Pay close attention as well to the design and entrance of the Cheshire Cat and Alice’s conversation with it. Without spoiling how it was done here, it worked marvelously, and I bought it completely.

Additionally, the costume designs on each of the characters unexpectedly caught my eye at each introduction, and I so wanted to study the intricate nature of its construction. For example, I especially admired each of the head dress designs of one of the Wonderland animal residents.

Tyler Seguin wrote in his Programme Director’s Note how he admired in Alice’s story the “nonsense wordplay and the silly situations that made me look at the real world with new eyes and realize just how strange a place it really is.” He cast energetic, vibrant, and dynamic individuals who were more than up to the task to meet this written requirement. At the end of the performance, the gentleman sitting behind me said he got tired watching all the running around that was going on. I didn’t because that very frenetic energy and ‘busyness’ is all part of the new world which Alice enters. Plus, the young children around me were captivated, laughing, and smiling at all this frenzied activity and instinctively bought into it immediately.

A terrific way to introduce young children to the live theatre. Director Seguin also completely understood that children (and even we adults!) would need a stretch break so a fun few minutes of audience participation trivia questions allowed the scene to be changed by the actors to Act 2.

As the easily bored Alice at the top of the show, Kiana Woo precociously grabbed my attention immediately with her pig tails, white hair bow tie clip covered with red polka dots, and a red heart pendant. Ms. Woo pleasantly and consistently maintained that childish feeling of impetuousness. The supporting cast dynamically created some wildly offbeat characters of epic proportions. The majority play several characters throughout the performance, but I’d like to highlight certain ones.

Cayne Kitagawa’s White Rabbit charmingly yet quickly led me on Alice’s journey through the rabbit hole. Michael Williamson’s Mad Hatter and Anne-Marie Krytiuk’s March Hare winningly scored points in the nonsense word play of the Tea Party. Their constant nattering and badgering of Muhaddisah’s benevolent Dormouse are delightful. The company preparation in the leadup to Lauren Wolanski’s entrance as the Queen of Hearts was keenly choreographed with the fabric used as part of her regal dress. Ms. Wolanski’s comical utterance of ‘Off with their heads’ finely appealed to the kids around me.

Final Comments: There is so much to celebrate about this production, but the one quibbling issue that brought me out of the moment occurred at the conclusion. I’m not sure if there was a miscue in lighting or sound. As the dialogue indicated that the story was about to finish, I watched carefully to see how Mr. Seguin chose to end the show.

The last line was delivered and there was dead silence on the stage, and nobody moved. There was some uncomfortable shuffling by the actors, and one turned to whisper in the ear of another as if it’s ‘What do we do now’. It felt uncomfortable to me to sit there for a few seconds as I didn’t know whether to applaud or not. Finally, the other actors behind the scenes came out, bowed and the applause continued.
Hopefully, this issue will be rectified for future performances.

All in all, a wonderful evening of entertainment both for children and adults.

As of August 21, I have received word the production is sold out for the remainder of the run. If anyone would like to be placed on a waiting list for remaining performances, please email boxoffice@guildfestivaltheatre.ca.

Running time: approximately 90 minutes without an intermission (but there is a stretch break)

Production runs until August 29 at the Guild Park & Gardens, 201 Guildwood Parkway in Scarborough. To purchase tickets online and for further information, please visit www.guildfestivaltheatre.ca.
‘Alice in Wonderland’ based on the literary classic by Lewis Carroll. Adapted by David Savoy

Directed by Tyler J. Seguin
Production Designer: Nancy Anne Perrin and Assistant Designer: Simon Flint
Stage Manager: Logan McNutt
Assistant Stage Manager: Hailee Morrow

Performers: Cayne Kitagawa, Anne-Marie Krytiuk, Muhaddisah, Michael Williamson, Lauren Wolanski, Kiano Woo

Abstract Building
Black on Transparent_edited.png