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Through the Looking Glass - Oakcrest School - McLean, Virginia - February 25, 2017

Jess Scarano

McLean High School


A musical twist on a childhood favorite is always a crowd pleaser.  Combine reality and fantasy, and the audience’s theatrical journey is delightful and exhilarating.  Such is the experience created by Oakcrest School’s production of "Through the Looking Glass."


"Through the Looking Glass" is based on the beloved story of "Alice in Wonderland." With book and lyrics by Chris Blackwood and music by Piers Chater Robinson, the production is anything but your average Alice story. Young Alice is scolded constantly for daydreaming about far off places. One night, however, a party guest opens the door to another world, one in which fantasy is very much alive. In the alternate world, Alice finds herself surrounded by strife as the Evil Red Queen preys on her, a white knight becomes her guide and sidekick, and she meets up with old friends such as Humpty Dumpty.


As young Alice, Kiley Hatch exuded innocence and naiveté. Hatch used exaggerated facial expressions and quirky mannerisms to encompass the childlike nature of her character. Upon diving into the looking glass, Alice meets the noble White Knight, Patricia Cuenca. The pair had wonderful harmonies together, and Cuenca managed to play the typically male part with ease, both vocally and dramatically. As her alter ego Lewis Carroll, Cuenca was equally confident and comical.


However, the character that stole the show and left the audience quivering in their seats, was the villainous Clare Kolasch as both Mrs. Prickett and the Red Queen. Kolasch consistently dazzled with her excellent vocals, particularly during the number “The Claws that Catch” and used her whole body to emote. In addition to the Red Queen herself, the entire Red Court did a wonderful job playing the victims of the queen and using larger-than-life motions to highlight the comedy of the production.


Contrasting the bitterness of the Red Court was the kind-hearted Papa/White King (Brigid Kilner). Kilner brought endearing spirit to the stage during the first scene as Alice’s father and brought the entertaining character of the White King to life later in the production. Not to be forgotten in this whimsical world is the tap-dancing goat (played by Grace Ferguson). Ferguson’s notable tap-dancing skills were showcased in “Tickets Please!” a number full of energy and quick movements.


Although minimal, the set allowed for easy transitions to account for the multiple locations in the story. The house’s purple walls with gold accents were beautiful, while the forest beyond reality was spooky and fantastical. Mirroring the set, the props team chose simple items such as a wooden structure on wheels to suffice as a horse and a small chessboard in the reality world to foreshadow later themes. The makeup team did a fantastic job of making the leading players and ensemble alike look clean and appropriate. Although there were a few moments where whispering could be heard from offstage, overall the sound team managed to handle many microphones very well.


Oakcrest School delivered in their eccentric production of "Through the Looking Glass." They proved that not only can they present a big-name musical with an all-female cast, but they can do it successfully.

Kristen Waagner

McLean High School


On the other side of the Looking Glass, it takes courage, wit, and a whole lot of imagination to create your very own adventure. In a clever continuation of Lewis Carroll’s beloved “Alice in Wonderland,” Oakcrest School takes audiences on a whimsical journey filled with lovable characters across the chessboard with “Through the Looking Glass.”


This little-known musical delights with a jocular book by Chris Blackwood and a lively score by Piers Chater Robinson. Familiar characters embark on new quests in this show, based off Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.” The story documents the adventures of Alice, after she climbs through a mirror into an alternate, dreamlike universe. To save the chessboard from crumbling, Alice must become a queen and end the reign of the tyrannical Red Queen.


As she endeavored to save the Looking Glass World, Kiley Hatch played Alice with endearing quirkiness, adding dimension to her character. Her innocent curiosity and reactions to the events of the show made her development from child to adult captivating. Attempting to thwart Alice’s attempts was the deliciously wicked Red Queen, played by Clare Kolasch. With a twirl of her fingers, she commanded the stage and struck fear into the hearts of everyone around her. Kolasch’s voice stood out in its strength and consistency in “The Claws that Catch,” made even more entertaining by her fierce facial expressions.


Patricia Cuenca shone as the White Knight, the chivalrous but clumsy champion who helps Alice cross the chessboard. Her stage presence and confidence revealed the Knight’s adorable awkwardness and eccentricity. Cuenca’s vocal skill was shown as she admirably handled harmonies written for a male actor without losing musical integrity. Chemistry between actors such as the White Knight and Alice, Tweedle Dum (Katie Svoboda) and Tweedle Dee (Isabela Wilson), and the White Queen (Anna Diederich) and Red Queen increased the believability of the show’s many relationships. Comedy was emphasized by the antics of the bumbling White King (Brigid Kilner) and the arrogant egg Humpty Dumpty (Therese Goyette).


The ensemble of “Through the Looking Glass” admirably portrayed the many residents of the world behind the mirror. Tight harmonies solidified their choir-like singing style, and they remained committed throughout their scenes. Each member of the cast was easily audible through extensive utilization of microphones, a challenge that was well-executed by the sound crew. Lovely costumes accentuated the whimsical nature of the show, and, though some transitions ran long, creative prism set backdrops brought the audience into each location.


A heartwarming coming-of-age story, “Through the Looking Glass,” is an endearingly nonsensical show that reminds audiences of the child within us all.


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