EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 6, 2013

Follow the children to Wonderland in production of 'Alice Jr.'

By Kelly Burch

---- — It’s a classic novel and a Disney blockbuster, and now it’s coming to a stage in Andover.

“Alice in Wonderland Jr.,” featuring young cast members from every elementary and middle school in Andover, invites audience members to jump down the rabbit hole to join Alice, the Mad Hatter and the rest of the crew on their magical adventures.

“This show is particularly fun with the bright colors, familiar music and unique costumes and characters,” said Kim Sousa of Andover, whose daughter Farrah is in the show.

The play, which is taking place at the Doherty Middle School Auditorium, is being staged by Andover Youth Services, which recently took over a new local theater group, TheatreWorks. Amy Wilkins Blanchette of Andover, who is well known in the local theater community, was hired to as director.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with AYS TheatreWorks”, said Blanchette, who has a bachelor of fine arts degree in Musical Theater from Elon University and is a proud alum of Merrimack Valley Junior Theater.

“I’m so happy to be able to give back to the community that gave so much to me. I constantly hear the legendary (MJT artistic director) Mrs. Walker in my head when I work with the kids, but I really wish I could whistle like her when getting the kids attention.”

Blanchette is directing and choreographing the show. For musical direction she reached out to Andover High School senior Carter Letsky.

“Carter is very talented,” Blanchette said. “He’s an amazing piano player and stage performer himself, and I am so happy to be working on ‘Alice’ with him. He’s really risen to the occasion and the kids love him. “

The kids also are fans of their director. Sousa said that Blanchette has excelled in her new role with TheatreWorks.

“She is kind, patient with the kids and shifts gears into ‘Alice’ as if nothing else is going on in her life,” Sousa said. “The kids love her and you can just tell that she has the experience to make this group a phenomenal success.”

In addition to the young actors on stage, children also are participating in other areas of the production, giving them a full-fledged theater experience.

“Kids will be able to get involved in all sorts of areas, from lighting, sets and costumes; not just performing,” Blanchette said.

“It’s a special show since we are really incorporating students from start to finish with not only performing, but the music pit and lighting. One cast member is even sewing and hemming costumes,” Sousa said. “Everyone should come see what a great job these kids have done.”

If You Go What: "Alice In Wonderland Jr." presented by AYS TheatreWorks. When: Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. Where: Doherty Middle School Auditorium, 50 Bartlet St., Andover. How: Tickets $10 at Learning Express (32 Park St.) or Andover Youth Services, or by emailing Kim Sousa at ksousa@rdkengineers.com.