Take a trip down the rabbit hole

Take a trip down the rabbit hole
Cast members of Alice & Wonderland, Jr. Front row from left: Micah Fong (Alice) and Francesca Fong (Small Alice). Back row from left: Nicole Phan (Tall Alice), Christian Jaeger (Mad Hatter), Sara Wolfkind (White Rabbit). Photo by Darin Fong Photography

SOLANA BEACH — When the curtain rises on the Theatre School at North Coast Rep’s production of Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland, Jr.” this week, three talented Asian-American girls will step into the role of Alice.The musical debuts Thursday and continues through Easter Sunday.Based on an adaptation of the 1951 Disney film, the script draws from the two novels, “The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” written in the mid-19th century by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known under the pen name Lewis Carroll.Traditionally, the role of Alice has been portrayed by girls of European descent.

The storyline follows Alice when, in a daydream, she follows a dapper White Rabbit and finds herself falling into a hole. When the rabbit disappears into a tiny door, the knob gives her a tip that she can enter the keyhole by taking a potion that will allow her to change her size. She follows his advice and passes through into Wonderland where a series of adventures begin to unfold that include “getting tied up with Tweedles, rapping with a bubble-blowing Caterpillar and beating the Queen of Hearts at her own game.”

“My favorite scene is the Caterpillar because I sing ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,’” said Francesca Fong, 9, who places Small Alice. Big sister, Micah Fong, 13, plays life-size Alice. Nicole Phan, 12, plays Tall Alice. Nicole’s cousin, Sara Wolfkind, is the White Rabbit.

“The biggest challenge is the three girls playing the same characters at different height levels,” director Sioban Sullivan explained. “I’m lucky because they can sing, they can dance and they can act.

“As much as I enjoy nontraditional casting, these girls were cast because of their talent and abilities.”

After Micah started acting with Kroc Kids, Francesca got the bug and joined her.

Like Francesca, Nicole inherited her brother’s acting chops, most recently performing in the California Youth Conservatory’s production of “Les Miserables.”

“Sara has the most difficult role in the show, but she is fearless,” Sullivan said. “Anything I give her to do, she does. All these guys do anything I ask them to do, and they do it well. They are incredibly brave.”

Micah, Francesca and Sara have already begun auditioning for professional jobs.

“My dream is to be a stage actor and to do musicals and be on Broadway,” Micah said. “I also want to do Shakespeare.”

Nicole has aspirations to be a television actor.

“If you have a dream, you should follow it,” she said. “If you have an opportunity you should take it. I consider all opportunities. I’m a better person for it — more confident.”

The entire cast includes Ashley Magofflin (Rose), Amanda Dodson (Ace of Spades) , Melody Dodson (Royal Cardsman), Emma Gronstad (Royal Cardsman), Sydney Gerlach (Caterpillar), Kourosh Sadr (Doorknob), Nika Sadr (Caterpillar), Bryan Dorman (Tweedle Dum), Emma Kirsch (Dodo Bird), Catalina Zelles (Petal/Lobster), Livi Weinstein (Mathilda), Nicole Phan (Tall Alice), Mariel Alexander (Queen of Hearts), Anna Tullie (Cheshire Cat), Lily Alexander (Petunia), Meghan Bailey (Petal/Lobster), Morgan Bailey (Petal/Lobster), Tyler Faison (Tweedle Dee), Francesca Fong (Small Alice), Micah Fong (Alice), Amber Hopkins (Cheshire Cat), Mila Bowman (Three of Diamonds), Philip Magin (King of Hearts), Alex Proctor (Violet), Olivia Schleicher (Lily), Grace Szczuka (Petal/Lobster), Sara Wolfkind (White Rabbit) and Isabella Mariscal (Daisy).

In addition to performing, Theatre School students are becoming increasingly involved with fundraising for nonprofits such as the Jonathan McMurtry Actor’s Fund. Next season, in September, they will launch an Art with a Heart program which will have an outreach program where they use their talent to change the world through projects that include literacy and Holocaust education.

The musical debuts at 5 p.m. March 28 and continues with performances at 7 p.m. March 29; 2 and 5 p.m. March 30; and 3 p.m., Easter Sunday, March 31 with a Mad Hatter Party following the final performance where the audience can meet Alice, the White Rabbit, March Hare and all the fun characters.

Each performance will begin with a 10-minute preshow starring the 4- to 8-year-old cast of “Broadway Babes.” Tickets: $12 for children (up to age 17) and $16 for adults. The North Coast Repertory Theatre is located at 987 Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. For more information, call (858) 481-1055 or visit northcoastrep.org/.

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