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Theater review: 'Alice in Wonderland' pulls rabbit out of hat

Stellar cast engages audience in over-the-top classic tale
By: Don Chaddock, Telegraph Managing Editor
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Sutter Street Theatre has done it again, pulling off a brilliantly executed production of “Alice in Wonderland.” The little theater in the Folsom Historic District, formerly known as Stage Nine, garnered numerous Elly Awards last year and if the latest play is any indication, expect more to line their shelves. The play follows Alice on her journey down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Allen Schmeltz touchingly portrays author Lewis Carroll, showing up at the beginning and end of the play. He is also the narrator. Schmeltz served as director as well. To have a strong actor in the role of Alice is crucial in a play such as this. With a small cast, five in all, the lead actor has to be strong. Hanna Hurst, 8, fills that role perfectly. When not playing Alice, she attends Silva Valley Elementary School in El Dorado Hills. She’s also been involved with El Dorado Musical Theatre, so she’s no stranger to stage lights. Hurst is one of five strong actors who bring the play to life. Brady Tait, 14, hops right into the role of the White Rabbit. He utilizes the modest stage to his benefit, rather than it being a hindrance. Tait also donned the oversized hat as the Mad Hatter. Kerrie Buehler, 12, gets high marks for her supporting roles as “stage hands,” Blackbird and Card. She was also the table. Utilizing a minimal set, much is left to the audience’s imagination. That’s where Buehler filled in many of the gaps. Finally, the breakout star of the show is 16-year-old Christopher Celestin. His take on Caterpillar left the audience in stitches. His Cheshire Cat was also not what someone might expect, if they’ve seen the Disney film. But, when his commanding presence entered the stage as The Queen, he truly stole the show. A well-rounded cast, solid direction and set design, combined with outstanding costuming by Eileen Beaver, make this a play that shouldn’t be missed. My 10-year-old daughter Parker said she is now “in love with live theater” and begged to come back to future shows. My 11-year-old son Cian also had a blast and wants to return. “‘Alice in Wonderland’ was an awesome play,” he said. That’s high praise coming from my son. Rating: 4 stars (out of a possible 5) Don Chaddock can be reached at donc@goldcountrymedia.com. KNOW AND GO What: “Alice in Wonderland” When: 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 14 Where: Sutter Street Theatre, 717 Sutter St., Folsom How much: $13 children 12 and younger, $17 general, $15 senior and SARTA Info: 353-1001 or sutterstreetheatre.com