Rising Stars to present ‘Wonderland’

Annual RMES children’s production features new venue, double casting

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Rising Stars to present ‘Wonderland’ 	Citlali Tellez as the Cheshire Cat, Susanna Meech as Small Alice and Lydia Washburn as the Queen of Hearts in costume for “Alice in Wonderland Jr" — Photo by Laura Austin

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“When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!” — “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” Lewis Carroll

For those who would be a willing captive to one of the most fanciful and enduring children’s stories of all time, the Rising Stars will present “Alice in Wonderland Jr.,” featuring two distinct casts of nearly 100 local performers.

“As always, the casting process was a true joy!” said Director Marla Cosner, who commended the auditioners’ talent and preparation.

In keeping with the Rising Stars tradition, several standouts have been selected to perform their standalone numbers in a pre-show gala.

Cosner is one of the founders of the Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society, a nonprofit organization launched by former students in local music programs. When state funding threatened the viability of these offerings, RMES began staging productions to help raise funds to keep performing arts in the schools.

RMES members also found a great reception from community members, who have come to enjoy high-caliber local entertainment. Cosner, a local teacher, saw an opportunity to extend RMES into offering similar performing opportunities to younger residents. This is the fourth Rising Stars production, which highlights talent in children ages 7-15.

“The costumes and set for this show are bright and imaginative, and the music is updated from the classic animated film with many upbeat songs and dances,” said Cosner. “The characters are just unforgettable, and of course the kids are just knocking it out of the park. They are all so talented, and it’s so much fun to watch them grow and sparkle over the course of this 10 weeks.”

Because of the popularity of the productions and the quality of talent that shows up for auditions, Cosner and her team decided to double cast the show to increase opportunities.

“Working with two casts in terms of rehearsal time is always a challenge,” said Cosner. “Luckily we work with amazing parents who are flexible and understanding as we figure this process out. Having two weekends of performances gives us slightly less rehearsal time, but I know the kids will put on amazing show anyway!

“It’s been so fun to see what each student brings to the role — often very different from one another,” said Cosner.

This year Cosner also found opportunities for older teenagers to get involved behind the scenes. In addition to assistant directors Ronelle Cannon, Leisha Wetzel and Julie Ertl, who bring diverse expertise to the demands of a production, this year’s show will also feature student directors Sophia Montenegro, Trinity Benitez and Amy Ertl.

“Alice” will be staged in the Cerro Coso Community College Lecture Center — ironically, the site of many children’s productions when the venue was still in operation. Cosner said she is happy to be the first tenant in many years, since the LC underwent renovations.

“Putting this show on at the college facility has been an incredibly positive experience. We are very grateful to be working in such a supportive environment and hope that this partnership will continue for years to come. The stage is perfect for our Rising Stars shows, and I believe it’s a great asset to this community.”

Cosner noted that although the production features twice as many performances this year, seating at the college is greatly reduced. “I highly recommend early ticket purchase,” she said.

Shows are March 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 6:30 p.m., and March 9 and 16 at 1 p.m. Doors open 30 minutes before curtain. Tickets, available at Red Rock Books, are $8 general admission, with reduced rates of $6 for RMES members and $7 for military, students and seniors.

Story First Published: 2019-02-15