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March 31, 2018

Children's Theatre Review || Disney's Alice in Wonderland Jr. at Peoples Theatre

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I've loved theatre ever since studying it as an undergrad and while I unfortunately don't get many opportunities to attend shows that deal with more adult themes, family-friendly shows are, in a way, more fun. We've attended the Peoples Theatre's shows three times now, including the show today, and it's truly mesmerising how the actors devotion and passion for their work shows through, and how immersed the children (well, some of them, at least) become at the display and music on stage.

The shows are always well-presented with impassioned performances by all the actors, and especially lovely is the addition of children as main characters. The stories are simple and dotted with slapstick that is always greeted by laughter from the young audience members, while they are sometimes quite interactive. The props and costumes are bright and fun, and the backgrounds and story implementation on the stage is entertaining and original.

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Alice in Wonderland Jr was certainly all this, bar perhaps one thing. The props and scenery were amazing, and the stage centrepiece was a Tim Burtonesque twisted tree with bright colours and rose vines trailing up the walls. There was a giant mushroom pillow for the caterpillar, giant teapots and tea cups for the Unbirthday Party, and flamingo mallets during the croquet event. Excellent use was made of a transparent curtain and projector: As Alice fell down the rabbit hole, a spinning image conveyed the idea of falling, and the door Alice cannot get through was projected onto the curtain and changed size to show that Alice was shrinking and growing. I was personally most excited by the giant biscuit dangling from the ceiling!

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The acting was on-point, with some actors taking on several roles and excelling at them all with the help of stunning costumes. The casting for Alice was perfect, and the little Ace card/Dormouse was absolutely adorable. My favourite sequence must be the Unbirthday Party, with the March Hare and the Mad Hatter quite hilarious. The show stars seasoned actors Luciano Zuppa, Roberto Queiroz, Alida Senekal, Marvin Molepo, and Thokozani Jiyane.

But for me the world of Wonderland was overtaken by music numbers that, while entertaining, didn't really match with the subject of the current scene. There is also not as much dialogue, with the exception of the Unbirthday Party and trial scenes and I felt there was a great dependence on the song to recover from a loose and sometimes strange storyline, a scene with Duchess Pepper and her pig child serving as an example. This is not to say that the show wasn't thorougly enjoyable, just that afterwards I was sort of left with the feeling that I didn't really know what was going on. I suppose it got the premise of being lost in Wonderland perfectly!

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Regardless of my criticism, it certainly makes for a fun morning or afternoon out, offering something different for your children other than run-of-the-mill movies and it sure beats sitting at home watching the cricket. Tickets can be purchased from Webtickets at R142 per person, but if your child belongs to the Kidz Club, you can get a discount by booking directly with the theatre. There are morning and afternoon shows and Alice in Wonderland Jr runs until 29 April 2018.

{Image sources: Facebook/PeoplesTheatre)

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