Invitation to a fantastical wonderland

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Cologne Academy students will put on “Dorothy in Wonderland” at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25. Above, The King and Queen of Hearts (Josiah Fisher and Evelyn Chock) preside over the trial of the Knave of Hearts (Liam Mathistad) as The White Rabbit (Conner Koch) rests his case. (Adam Gruenewald/The Times)

by Adam Gruenewald
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Cologne Academy theater is hoping to bring some wonder, excitement and creativity to the stage with their upcoming play, “Dorothy in Wonderland.”
Written by Brian D. Taylor, “Dorothy in Wonderland” combines the worlds of “Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland” as Dorothy, Toto and familiar Oz characters like the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Lion, get swept off to Wonderland where they meet Alice, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, March Hare, the Cheshire Cat and eventually conflict with the Queen of Hearts, according to Helen Suhr one of the directors of the show.
“Basically Dorothy is getting ready to leave and the Wizard takes off without her,” said Suhr. “So there’s another tornado and it sweeps them into Wonderland. So then it’s how to escape Wonderland and meeting all the people of Wonderland. And our Alice is still trying to get home.”
Cast members have been rehearsing every day after school for their upcoming production since just after winter break in early January for the musical, according to Missy Isles, one of several directors of the play.
The play is the fourth for Cologne Academy as Isles and fellow music teacher Helen Suhr have put on “Princess Whatsername,”“There’s a Monster in My Closet” and “Bye Bye Birdie” in the past three years.
Again the play will make use of the new stage as part of the Cologne Academy expansion phase and it will also feature a sizable cast, according to Isles.
“In the past we’ve done a fantasy kind of play and last year we did a classic down-to-earth play so this year we wanted to do a mixture of both,” said Isles. “It’s still a fantasy because it has fantastical characters but it’s also familiar because it’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland.”
Suhr added that rehearsals and putting together the show has been fun as the community has come together to create costumes, sets and props.
“I like this show a lot because it’s fantastical,” she said. “We wanted a big show and wanted to show off our auditorium and our talented kids.”
“Dorothy in Wonderland” is a show that is sure to engage the audience and showcase a variety of talented actors as it features an ensemble cast. The cast and crew of about 44 fifth- through eighth-graders is highlighted in brief by Dorothy (Lizzy Fisher), Lion (Isaac May), and Tin Man (Robbie Buetow), Toto (Jurisa Gilman), Scarecrow (Brian Kim), Glinda (Madi Beck) as well as Alice (Betsy Holmstrom), Mad Hatter (Ansley Mapstone), The King and Queen of Hearts (Josiah Fisher and Evelyn Chock) and The White Rabbit (Conner Koch).
“What’s really cool about this play is there are only a handful of characters who have a lot of lines,” said Isles. “But every character that comes out has scene where they come out and they shine. Everyone has a scene where they can show the audience what they can do.”
Speaking just a week ahead of showtime, Isles said the show is coming together with colorful costumes and a variety of smaller set pieces such as Humpty Dumpty’s wall.
“We just put our hot air balloon together today,” she said. “We have so many different scenes where those characters come out and shine so we’ll bring out this little prop and it goes away. It’s much more minimalist than we have had in the past. It introduces kids to another way of putting on a show than what we’ve done before.”
Cologne Academy students will put on “Dorothy in Wonderland” at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25.
For more information, visit cologneacademy.org.

Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.