“Hold onto wonder while you can”…the first line of Gerry Cullity’s opening song “Wonderland” in Desert Stages Theatre’s production of Alice in Wonderland pretty much sums up the theater’s philosophy. Kids off all ages marvel at the imaginary world created in each production at Desert Stages and that’s before they ever reach the stage. Executive Director Laurie Cullity (aka Miss Laurie) offers an atmosphere of fabulously controlled chaos in which kids revel. It’s like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory meets Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and yet amazingly she produces an incredible show when it’s all done.
While there are plenty of chances for kids to be in the spotlight, it goes beyond that at Desert Stages. “It is amazing to see children turn from this inward focus to an outward sense of community.” states a quote from Gerry Cullity displayed in the lobby. During each play, kids are expected to join the community to clean up the theatre, re-paint every wall and floor, re-organize countless costumes and props, and clean every nook and cranny. It gives children a sense of responsibility. They take ownership of the theatre; this is THEIR place. As well they should, not only are all the plays in the junior line-up performed by children, they also run the tech booth – lights and sound effects, and assist in directing and choreography.
Gerry Cullity’s original songs also give the kids a chance to express themselves with catchy tunes in various genres. From a blues singing Cheshire Cat to a hip-hop version of “Walrus and the Carpenter”, the array of songs matches Carroll’s fantastical and imaginative vision of Wonderland. The whole audience, no matter their age, will be tapping their feet to the beat. Nathan and Seamus can’t seem to stop singing them, even recording them and texting to friends. In fact, Cullity’s songs are so memorable that the songs from last spring’s “Peter Pan”, in which the boys played pirates, still top their playlists.
The intimate theatre-in-the-round at Desert Stages means every seat is a good seat making it a perfect place for kids to experience their first…or fifty-first show. The fantasy of Alice in Wonderland runs now through March 25 and will surely have you grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat. More information or tickets at www.desertstages.org