Just like the title character in Lewis Carroll’s famed “Alice in Wonderland,” 11-year-old performer Claire Donnan is quite precocious.
“This show is about a girl who is tired of ordinary life, and who isn’t, on occasion?” Claire says of the stage version of the story, being mounted by Best Kind Productions tonight in the amphitheatre in Bowring Park.
Claire plays Alice — or, more precisely, medium, regular-sized Alice, before she drinks the potion that shrinks her, and after she eats the cookie that makes her grow (small Alice is played by Julia Connors, and giant Alice is played by Rachel Cousins). What Claire likes about the role, she says, is Alice’s disregard for what anyone else thinks of her.
“I think it’s important to not care what other people think,” she says, “because then they can’t tell you what to do. Alice is not a doormat.”
After the success of last year’s production of “Honk!,” the ugly duckling story, Best Kind producers decided to make a summer show for children an annual event. Kyle McDavid chose “Alice in Wonderland,” thinking it’d be great in Bowring Park.
“It felt perfect for the atmosphere,” says McDavid, who is directing the musical. “I feel like the show really focuses on the idea of play and imagination, and explores what it means to be a kid.”
About half of the cast members have previously starred in Best Kind shows (including Andrew Hepditch, who played the lead in “Honk!.” In this show, he plays the Mad Hatter). The rest, all triple-threat performers who can sing and dance as well as act, are new to the production company. For some, it’s their first time on stage, apart from dance or music recitals.
Casting Alice, McDavid knew what he was looking for, and was happy to find it in Claire.
“Besides singing, dancing and acting, I was looking for a sense of wonder,” he explains. “Claire just has such an expressive face; big eyes full of the wonder and imagination of childhood.”
The backdrop for the show is minimal and many of the costumes are, too, but the exceptions are well-done and comical.
“Alice in Wonderland” runs tonight until Sunday night, and again Aug. 21-24. Showtime is 6:30 nightly, with 2 p.m. matinées on the Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is a suggested minimum donation of $15 at the door. The show runs for about 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Claire Donnan stars as Alice and Evan Boland is the white rabbit in Best Kind Productions’ show, “Alice in Wonderland.” — Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram