Join Alice and all her pals in Playmakers update of classic

Welcome to Wonderland, where Cheshire Cats smile, Mad Hatters offer odd riddles, caterpillars rap and a playing card rules as queen.

Revathi Menon will bring it all together in her first leading role when Playmakers of Baton Rouge opens “Disney’s Alice in Wonderland Jr.” on Friday, Aug. 15, in the Reilly Theatre. Opening night will be preceded by a pay-what-you-can preview on Thursday, Aug. 14, and carpet squares will be spread at the foot of the stage area for all performances so kids can get a closer look at their favorite characters.

Topping the favorites will be Alice, a thought that doesn’t make Menon the least bit alarmed.

“I’m not nervous at all,” she says. “I really love ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and I’m excited to have a chance to play Alice.”

Though Menon is a 14-year-old freshman at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, she looks much younger. It’s the perfect combination for Lewis Carroll’s character, a balance of youth and maturity.

And, as every Alice fan knows, she has all the logical solutions in this fantasy world that exists at the end of a rabbit hole.

“Disney’s Alice in Wonderland” is based on the 1951 animated classic, which takes its story from Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In each version, Alice follows the White Rabbit into the rabbit hole into a world inhabited by peculiar characters. Alice’s goal isn’t exactly that of Dorothy’s in the “Wizard of Oz,” who wants only to find her way home. Alice is more interested in figuring out her new environment and those in it.

This production incorporates songs from the original film and other Disney films.

“They’ll be singing “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,’ which wasn’t in ‘Alice’ but ‘Song of the South,’” says Anthony McMurray, Playmakers’ artistic director. “Some new songs have been added to make this a full musical.”

Alicia Hanley is directing the production, her first for Playmakers. She earned her master’s degree in directing theater two years ago. She now teaches elementary classes in theater at the Math, Science and Arts Academy in Plaquemine.

“I live next door to Anthony, and he asked if I’d be interested in directing this show,” Hanley says. “It’s nice to be able to bring both of my childhood favorites together in this musical.”

Hanley is staying true to the Disney film in her direction but also adding a few personal touches along the way to highlight her young cast’s talents. Like those of Playmakers veteran Anna Deshotels, who will play the Mad Hatter.

At 16, Deshotels’ résumé already includes a wide spectrum of characters, but there’s something special about the Mad Hatter, something about his mischievous nature and his love for the ridiculous.

“He’s so big and expressive,” Deshotels says. “I can exaggerate when I play him, and I love doing that.”

Deshotels isn’t aligning her personality to that of the Mad Hatter’s. He doesn’t like to follow rules, which wouldn’t sit well for the junior at St. Joseph’s Academy.

“He tries to teach Alice that she doesn’t have to play by the rules, that everything is fun,” Deshotels says.

CAST: Revathi Menon, Alice; Virginia Moore, Small Alice; Jolie Gautreau, Tall Alice; Ashley Stevens, Cheshire Cat 1; Noel Gautreau, Cheshire Cat 2; Laurel Bourg, Cheshire Cat 4; Chaislyn King, White Rabbit; Caroline Collins, Tweedle Dee; Caroline Feduccia, Tweedle Dum; Becca Velasquez, Mathlida; Trystan Seeling, Rose; Samantha Poche, Petunia; Nora Scott, Lily; Hannah Tanib, Violet; Emery Gischler, Daisy; Ja’Taiveus Jackson, Caterpillar; Anna Deshotels, Mad Hatter; Landon Simpson, March Hare; Vivian Brown, Queen of Hearts; Christopher Fields, King of Hearts; Jordan Simoneaux, Dodo Bird; Madison Roy, Door Knob; Brandon Persica, Rock Lobster; John Thomas Hernandez, Two of Clubs; Finn Miller, Three of Diamonds; Savannah Sanders, Ace of Spades; Chorus — Anna Katherine Harrell, Anna-Beth Henley, Logan Burge, Lauren Hicks, Beau Willis.

ARTISTIC STAFF: Alicia Hanley, director; Weston Twardowski, musical director; Amanda Clark, choreographer; Elizabeth Thomas, stage manager; Michael Guillot, assistant stage manager; Matthew Duvall, scenic designer; Devon Lamond, sound designer; Carter Dean, sound assistant; Sarah Beck, costume designer; Adam Waguespack, lighting designer; Todd Henry, executive director; Anthony McMurray, artistic director.