When I walked out of Prince Charles Theatre after Saturday night’s final PCSS drama class’s presentation of Alice in Wonderland, memories washed through my mind. This production had everything that made me fall in love with theatre when I was young.
We had no experience of this sort as children growing up in Calgary. Parents were different then—my big thrill was getting enough change to take in the Saturday matinee at the Bowness movie theatre. For a more exotic adventure we headed east to Hillhurst to take in a movie there. Either way, we would walk the several miles to save on bus fare and add to the treats we could buy. The first time I ever went to a movie with an adult was when a friend’s mom took us downtown to see Mary Poppins.
My first experience with live theatre came when I was in my teens. A Calgary Stampeder football receiver, John Senst, was interviewed on my favourite radio talk show about a play he had written. I decided I had to see it, and hopped the bus for the Pleiades Theatre in the Calgary Planetarium. I have no memory about the play itself, but this entre into live drama thrilled me. When I was 18, I travelled in Europe and the first stop was London, where my friends and I took in some West End productions.
Later I took in plays at the University of Calgary and then, as a journalism student at SAIT, I learned that I could weasel my way into previews of plays all over the city, so I could learn how to write about them. Theatre has been an important part of our life as a family, and we made sure to introduce our sons to the magic when they were young.
With those memories swirling, I spent a good deal of time on the weekend, thinking back to that remarkable production of Alice in Wonderland. Geez Louise, it was a beautiful sight to behold.
First I want to mention Jason Smith, the light and sound technician at Prince Charles Theatre. Since he has taken on that job, it seems to me that everything I attend at the facility has more sparkle. I can’t say definitively that it’s all Jason’s doing, but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
A few weeks back, when I interviewed PCSS drama teacher Brooke Douma (and her darling daughter, Lily) I felt overwhelmed just listening to how much effort a small number of people put into these shows. In Brooke’s shows, I might be happy to just go home and put my feet up after a day dealing with teenagers, but she is driven to put on these plays, and her students respond with huge effort and enthusiasm.
I was pleased to hear that Friday night’s performance had sold out, and thrilled to see the seats filling on Saturday night. What better message of support for young people than to make the effort to get out and enjoy their efforts.
We were rewarded. Supremely rewarded. From the opening scene, with a simple door standing in front of the curtain, and a bewildered Alice meeting the Cheshire Cat, it was obvious that we were about to be immersed in something very special.
In those first few minutes, Anjali Ewing (Alice) and Keyelle Hula, (Cheshire Cat) made it clear that we were not about to see a cast lacking in confidence and talent. Their banter, Alice wanting desperately to get back home to celebrate her birthday party and Chessy being frustratingly coy, was natural and well enunciated.
And it only got better when the curtain opened and the audiences’ eyes widened at the spectacle of brilliant colour and light. I don’t think any of us would have refused an invitation to the tea party that was about to take place. Of course any production of Alice in Wonderland is only going to be as good as its Queen of Hearts, and Zoe Marini was absolutely wonderful in the role. I enjoyed reading later in I Love Creston that Marini and Ewing actually swapped the roles they had been cast for. Great decision, girls!
It’s not fair to get into too many names—let’s just say that each and every person who stepped onto that stage was worthy of mention, as were the many volunteers who worked behind the scenes. A play of this merit does not happen without a remarkable team, and everyone involved deserves our thanks and congratulations. I had high expectations when I walked into the theatre on that evening, but I what I witnessed far exceeded my every hope!