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Down the rabbit hole: 'Alice in Wonderland' to be staged by Detroit Lakes students this weekend

Detroit Lakes Public Schools will present the classic children's tale, "Alice in Wonderland" this weekend at George Simson Auditorium. Three performances are set.

White Rabbit.JPG
The White Rabbit (Matthew Morrison) is worried that he's late for a very important date with the Queen of Hearts; the Cheshire Cat (Lily Sundby, at left) is amused by his predicament in this scene from Detroit Lakes High School's production of, "Alice in Wonderland." Pictured at a dress rehearsal in early April.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — It's time to take a trip with Alice, down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.

The theater department at Detroit Lakes Public Schools will be presenting three performances of the children's classic, "Alice in Wonderland," this weekend at Detroit Lakes Middle School's George Simson Auditorium.

Shows are set to take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 8-9, as well as at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 10.

Directed by Nikki Caulfield, the three-act play is based on Lewis Carroll's iconic children's book, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." As has often been the case when Caulfield is at the helm, she did much of the work in adapting the show herself.

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Alice (Leah Flugel, center) is very confused by her encounter with the White Rabbit (Matthew Morrison, at left) and the Mad Hatter (Ashton Anderson, right) during a tea party in one of the opening scenes of "Alice in Wonderland."
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"I purchased five different stage versions of the show," said Caulfield, adding that she had to find a way to adapt the script so that Alice (played by freshman Leah Flugel) did not need to be on stage for every minute of every scene, as is the case in many popular theatrical adaptations of the story.

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"Alice is still in most of the scenes," Caulfield said, though the other roles are much more balanced. "It's an ensemble-style show. With the exception of Alice, most of the roles are pretty much the same size."

Detroit Lakes High School seniors Lily Sundby and Ashton Anderson are pretty happy with their roles in the production.

Sundby, who plays the Cheshire Cat, is a veteran of past local spring productions.

Alice in Wonderland 1.JPG
The Cheshire Cat (Lily Sundby, left) laughingly illustrates how the Queen of Hearts will have the White Rabbit's (Matthew Morrison, right) head chopped off for being late during a scene from "Alice in Wonderland," played out during a recent dress rehearsal.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"I've been in it every year except the one where we didn't have a spring play because of COVID," Sundby said (a limited-audience fall presentation of the dramatic play "Dracula" was held during the 2020-21 school year).

She is reveling in the opportunity to play the mischievous cat with the big grin.

"I love being a vaguely threatening nuisance," she said, noting that the Cheshire Cat serves as a catalyst, often driving the characters' actions even when not on stage.

"My face has gotten really good at doing a crazy smile, and my evil cackle has gotten pretty good, too," she added.

Alice (Leah Flugel, at right) encounters the Cheshire Cat (Lily Sundby) for the first time in a pivotal scene from "Alice in Wonderland."
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Anderson, meanwhile, is taking on his first major acting role as the Mad Hatter.

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"I've been an extra before (in the 2019 Detroit Lakes High School fall musical, 'Mamma Mia'), but this is the first time I've acted in anything," he said. "It's a lot of fun — I get to jump up on a table and kick stuff around; of course, that's fun."

Anderson noted that his character is "crazy" — but also challenging, because his actions and reactions change so constantly, even within the same scene.

Caulfield noted that she's very proud of the work her cast has done in getting ready for this year's spring production.

"I let them play with it," she said of the script. "They crack me up. Last night (at rehearsals) I was laughing so hard I teared up."

"My only request is that they make the role their own, do not copy anyone else," she said, adding that the cast was up to the challenge: "That's how the Macarena ended up in it."

Where, and how that dance is incorporated into the script is something audiences will have to wait and see for themselves.

If you go

What: "Alice in Wonderland," presented by Detroit Lakes Public Schools
When: Friday and Saturday, April 8-9 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m.
Where: George Simson Auditorium, Detroit Lakes Middle School
How: Tickets are all general admission, available at the door. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for students.

Meet the cast

Alice: Leah Flugel
Margaret/Queen of Hearts: Eden Schmitz
White Rabbit/March Hare: Matthew Morrison
Cheshire Cat: Lily Sundby
Dormouse: Abby Perry
The Caterpillar: Victor Jiminez
Humpty Dumpty: Ben Sundby
Tweedle Dee: Jenna DeRemer
Tweedle Dum: Emma Mitchell
The Playing Cards: Andrew Nunn (Five); Lucian Hesebeck (Six); Stewart Annette (Seven)
The Flowers: Brenna Dahlen (Rose); Valentine Vella (Tigerlily); Akira Olp (Violet)
The Duchess: Aliyah Thompson
Cook/Knave of Hearts: Anna Yost
Mad Hatter: Ashton Anderson
King of Hearts: Ethan Hendrickson

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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