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THEATER: Ventura County | NOTES

Worthy of Wonderland

Ojai group's version of Lewis Carroll's popular children's story takes an entertaining and imaginative romp down the rabbit hole.

July 16, 1998|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Alice in Wonderland" is the current project of Ojai's Flying H Group, in a staging that is, for them, typically grand.

While Charles Turner's script is a quick tour though the high points of Lewis Carroll's book, and Steven Moore's songs are (at best) forgettable, the stage set, costumes and some of the performances create a total experience that's well above the ordinary.

That said, it will help those attending to have some familiarity with Alice and her tale--the odd characters she meets after taking a header through the rabbit hole likely will puzzle anyone trying to make sense of the story as a whole. The very young, of course, will probably be content to watch the colors and action.

Ally Crane heads the cast of something like 40 youthful performers under the ever-so-patient, one would think, direction of Jody Kasch.

Pamela Pilkenton is credited as "movement director," though with so many inexperienced actors on stage, sometimes "movement" consists of standing in one spot and staring blankly at the audience; Jaye Hersh as "vocal coach"; and keyboardist-musical director Jimmy Calire and percussionist Eddie Tudury constitute the live band.

Highlights opening night included Tweedledum (Nicky Crane) and Tweedledee (Dee Tyson); a "Lobster Quadrille" by Lily Mitchum, Charles Pepper, Davin Fulton and Brett Featherstone that included some fairly impressive dancing; and the croquet game sequence. (Does anybody under 60 know how to play croquet, these days?)

Jeff Rack's sets continue to impress as almost too imaginative and well-realized for children's theater, and Kasch, Mary Crane and Deborah Maragopoulos have designed some terrific costumes--though the eagle-eyed might wonder why there are five pips on the Six of Clubs.

More Melodrama: Moorpark Melodrama founder Linda Bredemann is planning events for the theater, which returned to her control July 2 and which may be renamed the Moorpark Playhouse.

First up is "A Pocketful of Memories," a variety show featuring many veteran Melodrama performers, scheduled to run the weekend of Aug. 14-16 with the aim of raising money "to keep the theater alive."

Bredemann says she's had to sell her home and many personal possessions to help pay the Melodrama's mortgage, and that certain of the building's curtains and antique doors have disappeared.

She's also announced a tentative slate of upcoming productions, including "The Fantasticks" in September, the revue "Be-Bop to Broadway" in October, "Side by Side by Sondheim" in November and "A Dickens of a Holiday" in December.

The Jim Gamble Puppets will resume their schedule of Saturday-morning performances, beginning Aug. 22. The Melodrama telephone number remains (805) 529-1212. Bredemann says she's looking for volunteers to help with cleanup, etc.

While the theater was being operated by leaseholders, Bredemann has been running her long-established Costume Annex, where she rents costumes and props from earlier Melodrama productions or that she purchased from other companies.

In addition to the expected Halloween business, Bredemann supplies theater, church groups and private parties--three with a "Titanic" theme, so far.

Perhaps surprisingly, she says, school projects in which students dress as historical figures and deliver book reports generate as much business as ghost and ghoul costumes for Oct. 31.

She can dress people to resemble animals (a shark costume is popular), gangsters or characters for Friday's opening of "The Mask of Zorro" at an area movie theater.

So far, though, no friendly purple dinosaurs are available; the owners of Barney charge more for rights to the likeness than Bredemann can afford. The Costume Annex number is (805) 529-1952.

'Golden Pond' Delayed: The Santa Paula Theater Center's production of "On Golden Pond," scheduled to open Friday, has been postponed until July 24. Ticket holders for Friday through Sunday should check with the box office at (805) 525-4645 about trading for a later date.

BE THERE

"Alice in Wonderland" at Ojai Center for the Arts, 113 S. Montgomery St. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Aug. 9. $15, $12 for children, seniors and Arts Center members. (805) 640-9659.

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