Magical Family Entertainment Beckons with Original "Alice in Wonderland" at Kelsey Theatre Sept. 4-13


"Alice in Wonderland" has never been more magical than in the world premiere musical kicking off the performance season at Mercer County Community College's Kelsey Theatre in September. Appearing for the first time at Kelsey, Twenty Minutes to Curtain Productions, under the wing of legendary costume designer and show producer Arthur Gerold, presents this professional production of a literary and family classic.

The opening night performance on Friday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. is a fundraiser for the fledgling company, which hopes to take "Alice" to New York City later this year. Tickets for opening night are $50 per person and include a gala reception following the show.

Additional performances at regular ticket prices ($16 for adults; $14 for seniors; and $12 for students/children) are: Saturdays, Sept. 5 and 12 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m.; and Sundays, Sept. 6 and 13 at 2 p.m. Kelsey Theatre is located on the college's West Windsor campus at 1200 Old Trenton Road.

Gerold says this version of "Alice in Wonderland" will follow the traditional plot line of the Lewis Carroll classic, but with embellishments that will delight children and adults alike. "There will be a new approach to an old story. Everything will be slightly askew," Gerold promises, including the Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee characters popping up as commentators throughout the show. "We are aiming for the absolute best in family entertainment - no bleeps!"

Lauren Parsons is Alice and Victor Rodriguez is the King.

The production team for "Alice" includes, from left, Claudia Perry, David Toser, Laura Downs, Kate Pinner, M. Kitty Getlik, Sean Varga (standing at back), Arthur Gerold and Eric Barnes.

Starring in "Alice" are: Lauren Parsons as Alice, Matthew Kennedy as White Rabbit, Mariel Rosati as Cheshire Cat, Victor Rodriguez as Caterpillar/King, Jason Etter as Mad Hatter, and Trudy Graboyes as the Queen. Jenna Miller is featured as Tweedle Dee and James Fleming plays Tweedle Dum. Appearing in multiple roles are Sherria Watts, Jenny Horowitz, David Gold, Colt Morris, Dana Masterman, Jillian Elise Riley, Jill Bradshaw, Katie Correll, Simon Hamilton, Eric Fabian Simon, Kate Franklin, Claire Norden, Marissa Marciano, Anna Kralik, Rebekah Renzi, Sidney Walters, Nicolette Dell'Anno, and Erin Fago.

The production team includes Producer Arthur Gerold, Music Supervisor Eric Barnes, Director Claudia Perry, Musical Director Louis F. Goldberg, Choreographer Denise Whelan, Stage Manager Michael J. Pastorok, Costume Designer David Toser, Set Designer Laura Downs, Lighting Designer Jerry Jonas, Lighting Technician Chris Ghaffoor and Sound Design Technician Sean Varga.

The script, music and lyrics for "Alice in Wonderland" were written by Gerold's late wife Marilyn, who died in 2002. Under the stage name Marilyn Day, she sang with the Guy Lombardo Orchestra and starred on Broadway in the original "Kiss Me Kate." "She retired from stage and screen in 1952 at the age of 26 to marry me - imagine that! - but never gave up her passion for theater," Gerold says. "This show is Marilyn Gerold's work. It's written in the style of the grand musicals from the 1950s - straightforward and beautiful." Gerold explains that Twenty Minutes to Curtain Productions is a tribute to his wife and her commitment to quality children's theater.

Marilyn was the driving force behind a previous theater company, "Make Believe Players," a children's troupe that took root decades ago in the Gerolds' backyard in Solebury, Bucks County, Pa. "We built a stage, put up lights and used our garage for storing scenery and costumes," Arthur Gerold says. "And, each summer we put on an original show - all the greats for kids, including Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, and many more." Talented local children appeared in these fairytale adaptations, some of whom went on to performance related careers, such as Eric Barnes, who recently returned to the area from his post as musical director for the traveling production of "Chicago" and serves as the orchestrator/arranger for this production of "Alice."

Twenty Minutes to Curtain Productions is yet another chapter in Arthur Gerold storied history as a costume creator in theater, film and television. During his many years in the entertainment business, he owned and managed Brooks Van Horn costumers on both the East Coast and West Coast, one of only two major companies that supplied costumes to Hollywood and Broadway for many years. Gerold worked with a long list of major actors, such as Katherine Hepburn (his favorite), Shirley MacLaine, Pearl Bailey and Dustin Hoffman. Among the many Broadway shows for which he did costumes were Mame, Irma La Duce, Fiddler on the Roof, Hello Dolly (with 14 leading ladies assuming the role), and 42nd Street, as well as numerous productions for the American Shakespeare Festival.

His employees were enthusiastic young people. "We hired young people with creative vision right out of Yale," he says. Many of them have gone on to major careers in the field, including Tony Award-winning costume designer William Ivey Long, whose credits include The Producers and Hairspray, and Jane Greenwood, a designer with a long list of credits for stage, screen and television.

Gerold fondly recalls working with Lorne Michaels and the original cast of Saturday Night Live. "They would bring us a script on Thursday. The costumes had to be ready by Saturday afternoon in time for the dress rehearsal. We worked around the clock." Gerold created killer bee costumes, coneheads, the Samurai warrior for John Belushi and many more. "They were such a fantastic bunch of actors," he says.
If the 86-year-old producer has his way, Twenty Minutes to Curtain Productions will perform annually at Kelsey Theatre "for the next hundred years. We've found a home here," Gerold says. Next year, the company plans to stage a production of "Snow White."

Tickets for "Alice in Wonderland" are $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $12 for students and children. Free parking is available next to the theater. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling the Kelsey Box Office at 609-570-3333. Kelsey Theatre is wheelchair accessible and provides assisted listening devices upon request.

Subscription series tickets are now on sale with savings of up to 45%. Tickets for all individual shows go on sale August 25. Learn more by visiting the Kelsey Theatre website.

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