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Despite Harvey, Pearland troupe’s ‘Alice’ set to take stage

November 8, 2017 GMT

Hurricane Harvey didn’t stop 18 area teens and tweens from creating “a modern musical twist” on “Alice in Wonderland” for presentation Nov. 17-19 at San Jacinto College South.

The musical is the fourth production by Pearland Little Theatre, a new group of thespians not to be confused with Pasadena Little Theatre, which is now in its 63rd season as a community playhouse.

“Auditions were held just as Harvey made impact,” said director Julie Candy-Johnson, explaining that tryouts began on Thursday, Aug. 24, with callbacks for finalists two days later. Flash-flood emergencies from heavy rain began that night in Pearland.

Rehearsals began shortly afterward.

“It delayed the beginning a couple of days,” Candy-Johnson said of the storm. “But we were determined to keep the enthusiasm going 100 percent. Having a goal kept the children’s minds focused on moving forward with their passion.”

Candy-Johnson’s biggest challenge was deciding how the production would look.

“The possibilities are so limitless,” she said. “I had to focus on how to tell the story, and it is a great story to tell, but I wanted to give it a modern twist.

“For example, the White Rabbit won’t be dressed in a bunny suit,” Candy-Johnson said. The character won’t resemble traditional pictures in the book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the 1865 fantasy novel by Lewis Carroll, she said.

“Our caterpillar will wear a very beautiful, colorful dress,” Candy-Johnson said.

“I created the costume look I wanted, then the kids went out and found something on Amazon or at Goodwill, different places.”

Jocelyn Pitman of Friendswood plays the Queen of Hearts, but everyone else in the cast lives in Pearland, including two of Candy-Johnson’s three sons, William Candy, 14, as King and Jacob Johnson, 9, in the ensemble.

Others include Jillian Evers as Alice, Laney Thompson (Helen), Emma Balsamo (Rabbit), Reese Reynolds (Lory), Katarina Mattheis (Eaglet), Camden Baker (Duck), Alicia Mata (Dodo), Will Dickens (Pigeon), Sara Rodriguez (Caterpillar), Will Wright (Knave of Hearts), Alyssa Grossman (Cheshire Cat), Nicoleta Savage (Mad Hatter), Ashley McKay (March Hare), Avonlea Evers (Dormouse) and Abella Mata (ensemble).

Deron Evers is the music director.

The choreographer is Jamie Williams.

Others on the production team include: Tiffany Evers (production manager), Chris Anderson (stage manager), Christina Mata and Phoebe Vasquez (assistant stage managers), Sherry Baslsamo (costuming coordinator), Amber Grossman (board member/treasurer) and Yancy Mattheis (sound).

The 1991 musical boasts a book and lyrics by Sally Netzel and music by Beatrice Wolf.

Pearland Little Theatre was founded in 2016 by Amanda Durdin and two fellow Pearland mothers, Laura Odom and Lisa Maxwell.

“We all had theater-loving teens, but local summer opportunities for teens in community theater were limited,” Durdin said. “We found ourselves branching out to Houston, Clear Lake and even Baytown. My son acted in an outstanding production of ‘West Side Story’ with Baytown Little Theatre, and he had such a great experience working with an older cast, but the drive back and forth from Pearland to Baytown for rehearsals wasn’t something we could keep doing. While our experiences with these local companies were all fantastic, we didn’t see why we couldn’t create a similar experience closer to home.”

The mothers banned together to form the local theater.

“Our aim was to make local youth theater more available and more affordable while giving the kids as close to a professional theater experience as we could,” Durdin said.

Before “Alice in Wonderland,” the group presented “Grease: School Version,” “Annie, Jr.” and “Legally Blonde, The Musical.”

“Alice in Wonderland” will be performed at 7 p.m. Nov. 17-18 and 3 p.m. Nov. 18-19 in the Marie Flickinger Fine Arts Building at San Jacinto College South, 13735 Beamer Road, Houston.

Tickets are $10 for children, $15 for adults.

For further information, visit www.pearlandlittletheatre.org.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net