Nicole Curbello is only in Grade 8 but she has landed the role of Alice in the Williams Lake Secondary School’s Musical Theatre production of Alice — A Wonderland starting its run Tuesday, June 12.
While just 14, Nicole already has a strong background in performance arts having played Shrek in a choir production at Cataline elementary and been the storyteller in the Studio Theatre production of Just So last year.
Alice will be her biggest challenge yet.
The musical will be a wonderfully colourful and charming event for the whole family with Alice arriving straight through the rabbit hole from high above the stage.
“I’m looking forward to flying,” Nicole says. “Once I’m in the air I will be able to feel myself falling through the rabbit hole.”
In Lewis Carroll’s book Alice in Wonderland, upon which the musical is based, director Sidonie Boll says Alice is wearing yellow, but they are dressing her in blue because that is the colour most people have seen Alice wear in the Disney productions.
“I splurged on fabric for her costumes because she is on stage in every scene in the play,” Boll says.
While Alice’s costume may be in Disney colours Boll is proud to say the musical version they are doing is purely Canadian, written by Canadians Roy Surette and Sandra Head.
The original script was for a small cast of six actors, but Boll says she has been given permission to expand the play to include a cast of 25 students.
“I know the writers and they told me I could do what I want with the play and add more scenes to get more kids in it,” Boll says.
Boll knows the writers because she played the part of Alice herself as a young professional actor when it was first staged at the Carousel Theatre in Vancouver.
She was a seasoned actor of 29 at the time, but believes Nicole is well up to the challenge of the part despite her young age.
“We have a better Alice than even I was,” Boll says. “Usually these lead roles go to Grade 11 or 12 students but she was perfect for the part.”
She says Stephanie Johannesen, who recently graduated from acting school and is featured in some prominent television commercials these days, was the last Grade 8 student at WLSS to land a lead role, Boll says.
After the first run-through, Boll says she thought she might have to replace Nicole because projecting across the floodlights of the big stage was difficult for her.
But after that first week and lots of work on her part, Boll says Nicole was projecting well and adding mannerisms of her own to the character.
“I’m glad I waited that week,” Boll says.
In Just So Nicole says the actors were supported with microphones and she was just talking.
She has taken singing lessons with Angela Sommers at Angelkeys Music Studio for three years, which she says has helped her to adjust to the big stage.
She also plays the flute and piano and fits in lots of rehearsal time at noon and after school. Her brother and mother also run lines with her at home.
“We never memorize our lines — we learn them until there wouldn’t be anything else to say,” Boll says. “That way everyone doesn’t have to think about what they are saying. You talk and respond as if you were really there.”
Boll says Nicole has taken on a huge responsibility for someone so young and always with a smile on her face and never a complaint.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Nicole says. “I didn’t really realize how much went into the production of a play.”
At first Nicole was shy about working with the older students but soon found her footing.
“It was a little scary at first because I didn’t know any of them but once I started working with them and got to know them I didn’t feel like such a little kid,” Nicole says.
The musical, like the book, is lots of fun with numerous colourful costumes and beloved characters— the cards, flowers, caterpillar, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Mad Hatter, and the White Knight.
The show features some amazing costumes and props such as a baby that turns into a pig.
“It took a long time to figure out how to do that one,” Boll says.
Retired teacher Jim Sims built a giant chair for Alice to sit on and an old fashioned camera that is part of the set.
A special harness was also acquired for Alice’s flying scene.
Boll says the musical, starts the way Carroll wrote the book with Alice Liddell and her sisters reading the story together, before she falls down the rabbit hole and into a fantasy world. Nicole says her favourite part of the play is when she is pronounced guilty of stealing a tart and everyone is running around after her. The cost of the production is about $15,000 of which Boll hopes to recoup $10,000 on ticket sales and the rest in program advertisements.
Alice — A Wonderland is on stage at 7 p.m. June 12-16, June 20-23 with a matinee and meet the actors at 1 p.m. June 23. Tickets are available at the school, The Hobbit House and The Open Book.