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Arts & Entertainment ‘Alice in Wonderland the Musical’ preview

The classic comes to life for area schoolchildren

Lewis Carroll's classic book “Alice in Wonderland,” is being brought to life this week in Franklin. The Overlook Theatre Company is working with the Macon County Public Library and Friends of the Library to bring Alice and a full cast of the craziest bunch of characters to ever grace the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts stage.

From the White Rabbit to the Mad Hatter to the evil Queen of Hearts and the Tweedle Twins, they are taking over Franklin and will be live on stage singing and dancing their way off the pages of Lewis Carroll's book. Created especially for younger audiences, “Alice in Wonderland” the musical will have everyone, no matter what the age may be, grinning with glee like the infamous Cheshire Cat.

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Mary Bennett paints faces for the Alice in Wonderland Tea Party held at the Smoky Mountain Performing Arts Center on Saturday. The Overlook Theatre Company will present Alice in Wonderland, the musical, to the public at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 each. To purchase tickets, or get more information, go to www.GreatMountainMusic.com or call (866)273-4615.According to Scotty Corbin, artistic director for the play and starring as the Mad Hatter, “Alice in Wonderland” is a mini-musical that follows the script that kids already know and love from the children's book. “It is a very fluffy, fun kid-friendly show,” said Corbin.

To get ready for the play’s opening day, children were invited to join the cast this past weekend for a Tea Party. Hosted at the performing arts center, children enjoyed tea and crafts with the whole Alice in Wonderland gang.

To make sure as many children in Macon County are able to enjoy the unpredictable cast of characters, the performing arts center opened the show to schools in the community.

“It is important to give kids the opportunity to experience live theatre,” said Corbin of why he believes day shows are important. “We always use a piece of classic literature or a show based on an award-winning book.”

According to cast member Nikki Corbin, the school shows are the most fun for the crew. “Actually the school shows are some of the greatest highlights we have here at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts,” she said. “My husband Scotty always picks shows that are part of the school curriculum, so not only are these shows fun, but they are also educational. We make the tickets very affordable for the children. We realize for some of these children this might be the only opportunity they will ever have in experiencing a live show. There is no greater feeling than being on stage when the lights go out you can hear the screams, the laughter and just feel the overall excitement of these kids. Overall, we feel it is a great experience for everyone.”

Planning for this one act, hour long play, began last fall. “We rehearsed for about three weeks and started costume construction then. We can’t build a costume until we have a cast,” explained Corbin. “Sets began about a week earlier, but were designed at the end of last year.”

Each and every costume and set used in plays produced by the Overlook Theatre Company are done by hand and are created just for the show. For this play, Corbin is directing a cast of around 70 adults and children, who all volunteer their time and talent for the sake of the arts.

In addition to the cast, about a dozen folks work behind the scenes to ensure that all the costumes fit and are performance ready, and all the sets and designs are perfectly put into place.

The play puts a musical twist on the classic piece of literature, and uses an array of musical styles to entertain the audience. According to Corbin, “Alice in Wonderland” will feature music ranging from classical Broadway tunes to a modern day rap all fused together with a little Mo-Town and jazz.

Nikki Corbin, a familiar face in the Overlook Theatre Company, will be transformed into the notorious, wicked Queen of Hearts for the musical. “The Queen, I will have to say, is one of the most enthusiastic roles I have ever played,” said Nikki Corbin. There are so many ‘layers’ to the Queen of Hearts. Some may stereotype her as the villain, but I like to think she is another obstacle that Alice must overcome in order to figure out who she really is.”

This play is especially enjoyable to Nikki because she grew up enjoying the fairy tale. “I remember watching ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as a little girl and the many thoughts that ran through my imagination as to how I felt about the Queen,” she said. “I have gathered those child-like thoughts and have hopefully put them into use on stage. She is very controlling and yet in a split second will become your friend, then all of a sudden she will threaten to ‘cut off your head!’ She has a very big and diverse personality. She has been an extremely fun role to play and I hope more than anything I can make the kids laugh.”

According to Nikki, the opportunity to work with a lively and dedicated cast tops the list of her favorite aspect of the play.

“There are several favorites in participating in this show. I love to be a part of a group of people where we share the same love for the stage,” she said. “I love how you start out on a bare stage with just people and scripts and then three weeks later have this amazingly beautiful creation of an actual show. This show is so creatively thought out that when the show comes together, you can’t help but say ‘wow.’ I love, in advance, how you just know there are elements that are going to bring such smiles to the children who will come to the show. And that in itself is worth every second.”

Another Overlook Theatre Company regular, Samuel Crabtree takes to the stage during Alice to play the challenging role of the Cheshire Cat. The cat, which was created by Scotty Corbin is an elaborate puppet, and proves to be a challenging role for Crabtree. “This role is really different than most,” said Crabtree. “A lot of the scenes are done in black light and again I don't want to give too much away until people come and see the show but I know they will be amazed and entertained. The cat only has a few short appearances but they are very fun to watch. People will just have to come and enjoy them for themselves.”

Instead of relying on his acting skills, Crabtree has to approach this role differently since he is acting through the puppet. “With a show like Alice in Wonderland, you have to play these characters over the top,” he said. “I just try to imagine how a cat would speak and act if it could talk and walk like a human would. It's not always easy but it's always fun to see what your imagination can come up with. It never gets old trying to find each character’s personality.”

Crabtree said the scene to watch during this play is the tea party scene. “My favorite part of this show is the mad tea party scene. Scotty Corbin and Everett Wright crack me up during this scene,” he said. “They both have so much energy and humor during the mad tea party and I know everyone will agree with me after seeing the show.”

The community group Read2Me is working with the library and the performing arts center to hold a book drive before the play to help promote literacy among the county’s youth. Books are being collected to distribute throughout the county and donation boxes will be set up at the performing arts center this weekend. All books are welcome.

Tickets for the play are just $10. The show will be held Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday Feb. 9 starting at 7:30 p.m.

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