|Alice in Wonderland- Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre|
Where: Canal Walk Shopping Mall
When: June 24 – July 16, 2023 at 11 am, 12.30 pm, 2pm. Closed Mondays
Bookings: Webtickets or the box office on site at the event. R5 of each ticket goes to CHOC helping kids and families affected by childhood cancer get your tickets now
Please note: No prams or trolleys allowed in the theatre. A pram and trolley park is available. Under 2’s, sitting on laps do not require a ticket
Alice in Wonderland is being presented at Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre for the winter school holidays, staged by A&M Productions [Fred Abrahamse and Marcel Meyer]. A&M has been staging Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre, since 2000 and because of no shows during Covid, 2023 and this season of Alice in Wonderland, marks the 21st anniversary production of Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre. It is as Marcel Meyer enthuses, their “coming of age” production. A major addition to the technical aspect of the production is that Canal Walk purchased an LED Screen and this has facilitated the inclusion of animated sequences into the production. AI-technology was used to render the animated sequences. How cool is that! Cutting edge technology brought to the theatre and an accomplished cast of performers, headed up by Fleur du Cap Theatre Award winning, Isabella Jane who takes on the role of Alice. Oh, and there are buckets of glitter and puppets. Read on for insights by Marcel Meyer into what one can expect in of Alice in Wonderland at Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre:
TCR: You must be thrilled that Isabella Jane who recently received a Fleur du Cap Theatre Award (her 2nd) is taking on the role of Alice? She has a glorious voice and is a superb actress. It shows how top musical theatre stars are embracing the opportunity to work in children’s theatre?
MM: We’re thrilled to be working with Isabella Jane again. Fred and I firmly believe that these productions at Canal Walk are a vital investment in the future of theatre. This is where the next generation of theatre lovers are born. We are committed to giving them all the bells and the whistles and put our best foot forward to share the best of what live theatre is and can be. We have assembled a stellar cast for this production. Joining the incredible Isabella Jane in Wonderland is another Fleur du Cap winner, Lungile Lallie who plays the Mad Hatter and Tweedledee, the divine Hlumelo Yawa giving a star turn in the juicy role of The Queen of Hearts; the multi-talented Memello Makheta as the March Hare and Tweedledum and last year’s Peter Pan; Thinus Viljoen, returns this year in the role of the White Rabbit who leads Alice all the way down the Rabbit hole to Wonderland.
TCR: Can you give insights into the design- costumes, design, sets for Alice in Wonderland 2023?
MM: A major source of inspiration for the overall design concept of this production were the stunning original illustrations of the Alice books by Sir John Tenniel. The original etchings were in black and white, but for this production we have re-imagined them in spectacular Technicolor. To give the production the feeling of a hand-illustrated Victorian picture book, all scenic elements have been hand-drawn and painted, then scanned at high resolution and then printed in large format to create the various backdrops and flats. Also, buckets of glitter have been used to make this Wonderland twinkle and sparkle in the most magical way.
TCR: Are there puppets, creatures, special effects in this production?
MM: Puppetry is a major theatrical device used in this production. The Garden of Talking Flowers is all done with beautiful hand-made puppets. The Caterpillar is a hybrid, puppet/costume. Later, during the Tweedledum and Tweedledee section, the two Tweedles present the tale of “The Walrus and The Carpenter” as a Punch and Judy type Puppet Play. Also, the tiny narcoleptic Dormouse is a puppet.
TCR: Insights into the music and songs?
MM: All the music and lyrics have been specially written for this production– so this is an original musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s beloved books. The great thing about adapting the Alice books into a musical is that I could give each of the characters their own unique musical sound. Alice’s first song, “A Wonderful Wonderland” is a typical musical theatre “I want” song – where the leading character shares their deepest wishes and longings with the audience. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were masters at writing, “I want” songs – their most famous being “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors and “Part of Your World” from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The Music for the Flowers is in luxurious ¾ time and takes inspiration from lush and lavish Viennese operettas by Johann Strauss. The music for the Caterpillar sequence is modal to create a Middle Eastern flavour while the music for the Tweedles and the Mad Tea Party sequence is firmly rooted in the tradition of classic Victorian Music Hall. The Cheshire Cat is brashly Broadway as he states his philosophy that everyone in Wonderland is Mad. The Queen of Hearts gets a show-stopping, tongue-in-cheek tango to endear her to the audience while making a musical metaphor for her explosive and passionate personality.
TCR: Is this a new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland? In 2023, we are living in a very Alice in Wonderland landscape?
MM: We are indeed living in crazy times – John Maytham recently mused on Cape Talk that it is like we’re living in a parallel universe and that we have, like Alice, stepped right through the looking glass. This production originally premiered almost ten years ago in 2014 at Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre. It was revived with a different cast in 2018, and now it’s back for a third time in this new iteration for the 2023 Winter Holidays. A major addition to the 2023 production is that we have incorporated the fabulous new LED Screen that Canal Walk has purchased into the set design. This has allowed as to include various animated sequences into the production. These animated sequences have utilized the latest in AI-technology in helping our AV designers in creating these sequences. So, original scenic drawings were fed into the AI programme that could then re-interpret and animate the sequence according to various conceptual briefs the animators fed into the programme. It is very exciting for us that cutting-edge 21st century technology can live side by side with a mock Victorian Punch and Judy show to create an unforgettable and magical experience for the entire family.
TCR: Do your audiences tend to pre-book and/or do you get a lot on site purchases in the mall and how many can you seat?
MM: The theatre has a capacity of 450. Last year’s production of Peter Pan broke all box-office records in our 23-year history. A total of 22 500 people saw Peter Pan during its three-week run and many of the performances were completely sold-out – so it would be advisable to book tickets early on Web-tickets. There is a box-office on site at the venue where patrons who happen to be in the mall can book their tickets if the performance is not already sold out.
TCR: Can you talk about staging top quality musical theatre in the mall: Your company A&M Productions (which scooped the boards at the recent FDC awards) has been doing Canal Walk Children’s Theatre since 2000, so that is 23 years in the mall? There were no shows in Covid- 2020, 2021? But you were back in 2022? Is this correct? So is this season number 20 or 21?
MM: Correct, almost 400 000 people have attended these performances over the last 23 years. Sadly, due to the pandemic there were no performances in 2020 and 2021, but last year’s production of Peter Pan opened on the day all Covid restrictions for theatres were lifted and we could play to full capacity, which the production did. Peter Pan was our 20th anniversary production, which makes Alice in Wonderland our 21st anniversary – our coming of age! But the joy of working on the Canal Walk productions is every year this time one’s inner-child comes to life and one gets to rekindle that initial falling in love with live performance that each of us can remember as a child.
TCR: Have you seen a shift in the age of the audiences in recent years – with the child-free contingent attending?Obviously seeing Isabella Jane on the bill – well that is a crowd puller?
MM: These productions are created to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, and everyone from the youngest member of the family to the young-at-heart can attend and be guaranteed that for just under an hour they will be transported into a magical world filled with song, dance, and wonder. And yes, the production does draw audiences who might not necessarily be attending with children. Most recently award-winning opera singer, Brittany Smith, (who is singing Cinderella in our production of Pauline Viardot’s Cinderella, for Cape Town Opera,which opens at the Artscape Opera House in July 2023) told me that she has been a huge fan of the Canal Walk family musicals and makes a point to attend every winter.
✳Featured image – Queen of Hearts (Hlumelo Yawa) and White Rabbit (Thinus Viljoen) in Alice in Wonderland, which being presented at Canal Walk’s Children’s Theatre, June 24 – July 16, 2023. Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/theatre-news-canal-walk-childrens-theatre-presents-alice-in-wonderland-2023/