How we are bringing Alice In Wonderland to life in a new musical

Brilliantly bonkers. Roger McGivern as the March Hare, Maggie Wakeling as Alice and Paul Mason as the Mad Hatter

"We're all mad here…" Alice In Wonderland in rehearsal. Photographs: We Are Theatre
“We’re all mad here…” Alice In Wonderland in rehearsal. Photographs: We Are Theatre
A brand new musical version of Lewis Carroll’s magical story is coming to York. Here writer-directors Donna Riley and Charlotte Gray introduce the show and its stars

Alice In Wonderland – The Musical is a new production we have written with music by North East Composer Dennis Westgate. The show is based upon the first of Lewis Carroll’s adventures for Alice, with a little twist – well, it wouldn’t be theatre without a twist.

The cast is from all walks of the local and surrounding community with more than 40 members of all ages. There was a lot of competition for the principal roles, especially for Alice and The Queen of Hearts which have gone to eight-year-old Maggie Wakeling from York and Katy Devine, a masters student from York University, respectively.

A raw talent, Maggie was last seen at York Theatre Royal playing the role of Gretal in The Sound of Music. Maggie brings the innocence, naivety and boldness that the character of Alice demands and, coupled with her beautiful singing voice, made her an obvious choice.

Katy Devine as the Queen of Hearts – well, what can we say – she certainly brings her personality to the role and we do wonder whether she is enjoying the “off with your head” a bit too much.

Alice In Wonderland is at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre from Wednesday, June 26 until Saturday, June 29, with evening performances at 7.30pm and an additional Saturday matinee at 2.30pm

For more details, see the We Are Theatre website

Story of a show: excerpts from the Alice production blog

February 21, 2013

And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! After what seemed like a very long seven days, the principal cast list for We Are Theatre’s Alice In Wonderland – The Musical is finally out! Hurrah! And bravo everyone, very well deserved.

All in all we’re both really excited to get started on this very exciting adventure. Stay tuned for more after this weeks rehearsal, as we go down the rabbit hole…

March 5, 2013

So, after last weeks first full cast rehearsal, it is fair to say that we are most definitely rolling. Woohoo! And it was all very, very exciting. The energy in the room as I arrived at rehearsals was absolutely fantastic and just what was needed to get the whole rehearsal process started.

For the first part of the rehearsal the writers/directors Charlotte and Donna gave a short talk about the play and how rehearsals were going to run. Everyone was also introduced to all the principal characters, as well as most of the show’s wonderful creative team.

Following the talk we finally managed to get our hands on the all important and (as far as I’ve read) bloomin’ marvellous, if not slighty bonkers script… YAY!

Eventually after all the excitement of receiving our scripts we dived straight into the ’Caucus Race’ scene, and C&D set to work on the mammoth task of blocking in the whole cast – now as various animals including bees, crabs, badgers and peacocks – into the scene.

"Who are you?" said the Caterpillar (Gaynor Spivey) to Alice (Maggie Wakeling). Photographs: We Are Theatre
“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar (Gaynor Spivey) to Alice (Maggie Wakeling). Photographs: We Are Theatre
The Queen plays croquet
The Queen plays croquet
The cutest White Rabbit ever? Eight- year-old Vanessa Hegarty
The cutest White Rabbit ever? Eight- year-old Vanessa Hegarty
The Mad Had Hatter is played by Paul Mason who is suitably mad and fond of tea
The Mad Had Hatter is played by Paul Mason who is suitably mad and fond of tea

March 12, 2013

My, oh my what a busy rehearsal that was on Sunday! Not for me in particular, but there was lots and lots going on in the rehearsal room, something involving dancing bugs!? There were even bug rehearsals going on in the corridor, I had to sneak past a swarm of bees and beetles to go to the toilet – luckily I didn’t get stung.

Hats off to our wonderful choreographer Beth North for putting up with me and the rest of the Mad Hatter dance gang, it was lots of fun and we can’t wait to do it all again this Sunday however, I‘m sure Beth can!

March 22, 2013

So in this musical the cast is being used in interesting ways, some are a table, some are blades of grass – that does make me think of that old ad “I want to be a tree!” (please other people remember that or am I that old??) The cast of Alice in Wonderland – The Musical are the best at multi-tasking! I did ask one of the blades of grass what their inspiration was, she said, “the non-existent spring” I just hope spring is on its way soon!!

April 18, 2013

The beginning of Sunday rehearsal was very exciting, as we were all given more of our animal costumes for the Caucus race scene. It was masks, gloves, wings, feathers, ears and tails a go go! Who doesn’t love a good pair of ears? Katy Devine, aka Mother Crab / The Queen of Hearts, was particularly pleased that her crab mask made her look like a golfer… or so she thought anyway!

It took us just over an hour to get through all the text, songs and dances, which is great as – understandably – we did have to stop a few time for dropped lines, missed cues and what not. Also with such a large cast – primarily made up of super-energetic children – spacing can be a bit of an issue, coming on and off ‘stage’ can be a bit of a nightmare sometime, as you stumble over a chair, the piano cable and a small child.

April 23, 2013

On Saturday The Queen of Hearts, The Mad Hatter, myself as a humble Playing Card, and the very lovely Miss Amy Helliwell took to the busy streets of York for a spot’o promotional work for the show. For Katy as The Queen this mainly involved trying not to make children cry, or run a mile screaming as she asked for their heads. However, on the flipside to this, people especially the ladies, heaven knows why, were positively flocking towards Paul as The Mad Hatter with cameras and handbags at the ready. Gah!

On Sunday there was more croquet and tea drinking action as we rolled head first into Act Two. we all had lots of fun been blocked into the scene and playing our first game of croquet. Queenie won of course because she is the best, and doesn’t cheat at all, ever, NEVER! *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*. Turns out that our Alice, played by Maggie Wakeling, is quite competitive and wasn’t very impressed with The Queen’s suspicious victory.

Everyone did very well on Sunday, especially the younger members of the cast who played the Flamingos and Hedgehogs – great balancing and rolling skills guys!

May 14, 2013

First full run throughs are always a bit of a daunting experience. For the cast it is the first true test of memory and skill, with no scripts to hide behind or consult for that one line or cue that’s just slipped away. Then there’s the writers/directors who see for the first time their precious creation, which may or may not be as good as it appeared on the page.

But I guess that’s the one of the many risks and thrills of theatre. However, as first runs go I thought Sunday’s effort wasn’t bad at all.

Everyone seemed to have really upped their game, in terms of focus and more importantly overall performance quality. In particular I noticed how the characters have become more three-dimensional now that we’re (mostly) free from scripts. Bloomin’ marvellous!