Poster Victor Zupanc
Composer and performer Victor Zupanc leads the musical antics behind the Children’s Theatre Company's production of 'Alice in Wonderland.'
CTC

'One-man band' Victor Zupanc brings 'Alice in Wonderland' to musical life at Children’s Theatre Company

Serving as a 13-piece “one-man band,” Victor Zupanc, longtime resident music director and composer, will add to the zany antics of the Children’s Theatre Company’s production of Alice in Wonderland.

Alice in Wonderland logo

Zupanc will variously play keyboard, violin, guitar, accordion, kazoo and “lots percussion things that I’m playing with my feet” to complement the wacky doings of Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and other characters. CTC’s version of Lewis Carroll’s beloved classic runs Feb. 13 to March 31.

Zupanc will perform some 40 “micro songs,” most only four to eight bars long. He composed the songs while rehearsing all day, every day — “not a normal practice for composers or sound designers,” he said.

“The story of Alice in Wonderland is so absurd,” he added. “One thought was, let’s put a bunch of songs into this production and make them really tiny, which adds to the frantic nature of the play. It’s a lot of fun for the cast to just be jumping from one thing to another to another and have these little tiny bursts of song.”

Performing in costume and visible from a pit at the side of the stage, Zupanc will punctuate characters’ head bumps and foot stomps and other action with siren whistles, slide whistles and cowbells. He has pedals hooked up to a bass drum, a cymbal, a hi-hat and tambourine.

“We’re doing this kind of like a vaudeville troupe of clowns that puts on this production,” he said. “I thought, that would have been one musician, a piano player off to the side. So, there’s a lot of piano, and the basic sound of what I’m doing is a lot of 1920s ragtime piano with a lot of sound effects and bells and whistles.”

Taking advantage of technology, Zupanc has keyboard patches that put the sounds of trumpets, strings, timpani and brass at his fingertips to, for example, to create a “big and royal” fanfare when the Queen of Hearts enters.

Zupanc, who grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, has been CTC’s resident music director and composer since 1989. He has worked on more than 300 plays and composed for orchestras, choirs and films. In addition to CTC, he has worked on shows at the Guthrie Theater and Mixed Blood Theatre and on the coasts.

Victor Zupanc
Victor Zupanc has been the Children's Theatre Company's resident music director and composer since 1989.
Dan Norman

“I think my favorite ones are always the plays where I am the musician, where I'm either on stage or in a pit, but where it's just me creating everything, doing Foley sound effects, playing the music, singing, acting or whatever need be,” he said.

Zupanc typically stays in the pit during intermissions or after shows so that audience members can see how he creates the songs and sounds they hear.

“I love to share that, when people come down and go, ‘Wait, it’s just you? How do you do all this?’” Zupanc said. “And I’m able to show them all these pedals and instruments and how I do this stuff. I love that part and seeing the kids’ faces and asking them if they play instruments.”

With every show, Zupanc’s goal is to learn something new. That’s how he’s picked up the flute and the tuba, although neither are part of his lineup for Alice in Wonderland.

“I’ve written pieces for symphony orchestras; I’ve written pieces for choirs,” Zupanc said. “And all of that informs what I do when I’m just a one-man band. I’ve done this in probably a dozen shows over the years. Directors see that and go, ‘Whoa, that’s fun; I’d like you to do that for my show.’ So, it’s just taken on a little bit of a life.”

More info

What: Alice in Wonderland
When: Feb. 13-March 31
Where: Children’s Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis
Tickets: $15 and up
More info

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