Young actors find home onstage in ‘Wonderland’

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 7, 2014

Two surreal fantasy tales will collide onstage May 9-11 when Sterling Civic Theatre puts on its version of “Dorothy in Wonderland” at Henry Ford II High School.

Show director Shelby Devine said her cast of around 100 people includes youth from first-graders to 18-year-olds. An estimated 20 stagehands help make the production possible behind the scenes.

According to Devine, the crossover plot of “Dorothy in Wonderland” picks up steam when Dorothy falls down the rabbit hole into Wonderland and eventually meets up with characters from both “The Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Dorothy and Alice meet each other during the play and try to return to their homes.

Devine said the show’s climax is when the Tin Man and Alice are put on trial before the Queen of Hearts.

“Alice gets framed for stealing the Queen’s tarts, and the Tin Man gets framed for Humpty Dumpty’s death,” Devine said.

Although Devine said the play is a short one, it’s also a demanding production because of the outlandish sets and costumes.

“It’s Wonderland — you have to set that atmosphere onstage,” she said.

Sterling Civic Theatre cofounder and executive producer Larry O’Grady said the production is giving young actors a chance to have a blast.

While the theater group has been running for four seasons, he said local communities and school districts have been paying more attention as it continues to thrive. In exchange, the theater group is offering scholarships to select school districts.

“So much of the (school) theater budgets have just been slashed,” O’Grady said. “Theater, music — they’re getting destroyed. And more and more (people) are saying, ‘Can you do another show?’”

O’Grady said Sterling Civic Theatre stages shows year-round, and it is already looking forward to putting on its summer production, “Shrek The Musical.” The group aims to be inclusive and tries to find a spot for anyone who auditions.

O’Grady said the theater group has a program called Noah’s Ark that reaches out to people with special needs who want to get involved in drama. The program’s name alludes to a boy named Noah, who auditioned and was beloved by the theater troupe, O’Grady said.

Noah’s Ark participants are open to audition or do backstage work, like moving sets or handling lighting.

“They learn to become something different,” O’Grady said. “It gives them socialization. It gives them an opportunity to meet peers.”

Sterling Civic Theatre and the Sterling Civic Youth Theatre will present “Dorothy in Wonderland” at 7 p.m. May 9, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 10, and at 2 p.m. May 11 at the Henry Ford II High School, 11911 Clinton River Road, in Sterling Heights.

For ticket information, call (586) 264-5571. Learn more about the theater group by visiting