Youth theater groups prepare for 'Alice,' 'Romeo and Juliet'

At rehearsals last weekend, young actors were busy preparing for professional-caliber productions opening next week.

Children's Theatre of Annapolis presents Disney's "Alice in Wonderland," featuring a cast ages 8 to 14, on weekends April 13-22 at its Bay Head Road theater in Annapolis. The Annapolis Shakespeare Company will present "Romeo and Juliet," featuring a cast age 18 and under, April 12-14 at Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park.

The 1951 Disney animated film is based on Lewis Carroll's classics, "The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland" and its sequel, "Through the Looking Glass." Alice must shrink and grow, so there are three versions of Alice in the play — small, medium and tall — changes resulting from drinking potions and eating cookies.

After a 10-year absence, Severna Park resident and CTA alumnus Dylan Roche returns at age 23 to direct his first CTA show.

"Children's theater gives young people a creative outlet and a social outlet as a collaborative art form," he said at rehearsal. "Everyone is always welcome to audition. Not everyone can be a triple-threat singer-dancer-actor. I was tone deaf and had two left feet and found a place here as an actor."

Roche is assisted by music director Laura Tayman and choreographer Jason Kimmell.

CTA has three girls cast as Alice. Little Alice is played by Emily Small, 9, a diminutive bundle of talent who attends Crofton Elementary. Medium Alice is played by 10-year-old Chrissy Scott, who attends Davidsonville Elementary and didn't miss a single choreographed move at rehearsal. Ella Green, 12, a Severn School student, easily fills the role of tall Alice.

In rehearsal, Severn River Middle School student Gabe Needle was a major scene stealer, strong in the role of White Rabbit, dashing about to complex choreography because he's "late, late for a very important date."

As Tweedledee, 11-year-old Katie Garrity of Windsor Farm Elementary smoothly executed a number of difficult dance moves while seamlessly delivering all dialogue in rhythm.

Other cast members include A.J. Williams as the Door Knob, Camille White as Tweedledum, Ally Baca as the Caterpillar, Madison Quellette as the Queen of Hearts and Clifford Jamieson as the Mad Hatter.

At rehearsal, the ensemble of young actors meticulously executed several difficult numbers that required a variety of contrasting moves.

Tickets for "Alice," priced at $15 for adults, $12 for ages 12 and under and seniors over 60, can be purchased by calling 410-757-2281 or at Shows are at 7:30 p.m. April 13-14 and April 20-21 and at 2 p.m. April 14-15 and April 21-22.

Last Saturday, at a rehearsal of "Romeo and Juliet" by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, we were impressed by the dedication of the young actors and the emotional intensity they brought to their roles in performance.

This relatively new group began in summer 2009 as a small workshop taught by Sally Boyett-D'Angelo, who founded the company in fall 2010 and now serves as its artistic director. The company received grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the city of Bowie, which enabled it to become the fourth resident company at Bowie Playhouse.

Last August, the teenage troupe presented a well-received "Twelfth Night" that attracted a large number of high school-age contemporaries to Bowie Playhouse. Annapolis Shakespeare Company will offer its second series of four performances of "Romeo and Juliet" April 12, 13 and 14.

We saw the company rehearse scenes that followed the secret wedding of the star-crossed lovers. In a touching scene, Liesl McClintock as Juliet's nurse captured her affectionate concern for Juliet and later conveyed alarm when, after attempting to waken Juliet, she discovers that the girl is apparently lifeless.

The wedding night scene portrayed by Joshua Boulden as Romeo and Madeleine Stevens as Juliet was filled with youthful ardor tinged with regret at being compelled to part.

A highly athletic dueling scene between Boulden's Romeo and Michael Pimpo as Tybalt was well executed, as was Romeo's later duel with Paris inside Juliet's tomb.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors, and may be purchased by calling the box office at 410-415-3513 or online at A Young Actors' Shakespeare Festival will follow on Saturday, April 21.

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