Audiences can join the adventures of a curious young girl who follows a white rabbit into a magical realm.
The all-youth production of “Alice in Wonderland” will stream live this month from The Growing Stage. There, Alice will encounter some peculiar creatures, like the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter.
Because of the pandemic, the 18 actors from the tri-county area of Sussex, Morris, and Warren worked from their homes. Putting the whole thing together, with editor Cara Scalera, The Growing Stage’s production manager and teaching artist, was some incredible accomplishment.
The production features artwork and masks designed by artist-in-residence, Perry Arthur Kroeger.
“This vibrant, virtual world will practically pop off your screen,” said Dany Campos, The Growing Stage’s marketing manger.
Emily Ligarzewski of Hopatcong will play Alice. The 15-year-old became involved with The Growing Stage through her choir teacher, who saw how much she loved to sing.
“I was about five or six, and she was telling me I should try classes at the Growing Stage, which I did, and I’ve been doing them ever since,” Emily said. “I became involved in this performance because I’ve done a few other shows here, and I’ve always wanted to be in the show ‘Alice In Wonderland.’”
Emily said the tryouts were fun. She was able to sign on from her computer and audition right from her room. “The biggest challenges I have had was being able to put up my green screen and not having my cats pull it down,” she said. “My biggest reward is being able to meet all of these extremely talented people doing the same thing I love, which is acting and performing.”
Fifteen-year-old Zach Finizio of Hopatcong plays Pat the Cook. He’s been been involved with The Growing Stage since fifth grade. “I had a virtual appointment and was very excited to get the role,” he said.
He said memorizing lines comes easily to him, but his challenge is how his character interacts with the others in the scene.
“I love being part of The Growing Stage,” said Zach. “My parents started bringing me to see shows when I was four years old. I also attended summer camp and various classes. When I’m not in a production, my parents and I volunteer.”
Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum
Aria Abato, 11, of Landing is plays two roles, Daisy and a card. “I was super excited to get both roles,” she said.
She’s been part of The Growing Stage since she was five years old. “I love The Growing Stage, and Mr. Danny makes classes fun.”
She enjoyed the Zoom tryouts, for which they had to memorize a paragraph of dialog.
Scheduling recordings, coordinating costumes, and setting up her green screen presented challenges for her. “Running lines via Zoom and making sure my family was quiet when the recording was happening was very different,” Aria said.
Sean Cahill, 17, of Netcong was happy to get the role of Tweedle Dum, especially because his best friend, Nick, is playing Tweedle Dee. He said the part is a lot of fun.
“I got involved in The Growing Stage when I was 10 because I always used to go to the shows,” he said. He auditioned for ‘”Shrek’ and got to be a pig — “and I have been doing shows there ever since.”
He had to stay focused while recording from home. “It’s a very different environment rather than being on stage,” said Sean. “However, it’s rewarding that we are going to be performing in a whole new way, which is really exciting, because not many places are doing it like The Growing Stage.”
Also known as The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey, The Growing Stage is located in the historic Palace Theatre in Netcong. “Alice in Wonderland” will be shown in unlimited streaming from April 15 through 18.
The production is a part of The Growing Stage’s studio presentation series, which was initiated in 2009 and has succeeded in engaging both patrons and artists. Programs are made possible in part by funding from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and contributions from numerous corporations, foundations, and individuals.
“Running lines via Zoom and making sure my family was quiet when the recording was happening was very different.” Aria Abato