Book: Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy
Music: Frank Wildhorn
Lyrics: Jack Murphy
Director: Lotte Wakeham
Reviewer: Matt Forrest
Wonderland sees the characters from the Lewis Carroll tales of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass given a modern day make over with a political message to boot. Alice (Kerry Ellis) is now a 40-year-old single mum with all manner of problems: her ex-husband is about to remarry, her car has just been stolen and she has just lost her job. Things are pretty grim, however, the appearance of The White Rabbit (Dave Willetts) to Alice and her daughter Ellie (Naomi Morris) sees them along with their neighbour Jack set off on an adventure where they may or may not find themselves and save Wonderland too.
In Wonderland all our old favourites from the books are there including a mischievous Cheshire Cat, (Dominic Owen), a super smooth Caterpillar (Kayi Ushe) and of course the Mad Hatter (Played this evening by Alternate Michelle Pentecost). Wonderland is plunged into chaos with the help of the Looking Glass and an attempt by the Mad Hatter to overthrow the Queen of Hearts (Wendi Peters).
The cast are fantastic; Ellis is in fine voice as Alice, whilst Morris puts in a fine comic turn as the likable, good-natured Ellie, who is transformed into the ‘moody teenager from hell’. Stephen Webb is also on good form as Jack, who has great chemistry with Ellis. However, the undoubted star of the show is the criminally underused Peters, stealing every scene she has, as the diabolical Queen. Wonderland has a great supporting cast who work their socks off throughout the production. A great deal of credit must go to the show’s Choreographer, Lucie Pankhurst, who has put together some stunning routines in particular for the songs Wonderland and Advice from a Caterpillar.
However, the production is let down by its bloated story: the first half introduces plot strands as if they’re going out of fashion, which is at times confusing and even more annoying when some of these aren’t resolved. Wonderland would be all the better if it was decided what story it wanted to tell and sticking to it: either Alice’s story of self-discovery or the perils of power corrupting and how overthrowing one tyrant and replacing them with another is not always the best way forward, as history has proven. It’s frustrating how much better the show is following the interval as compared to what had gone before, and that lies squarely at the feet of the script.
The musical numbers are entertaining but will be remembered more for the fantastic delivery rather than their lyrics. Highlights include a powerhouse duet of This is who I am with Ellis and Pentecost give their all. However, the real show stealer is Hail the Queen, with Peters demonstrating what a fantastic voice she has.
Overall, Wonderland is a good, fun night out, with something for everyone: great performances and fantastic production values. With a few more tweaks to the script it could have been a whole lot better. It is worth following the White Rabbit and giving it a try just don’t expect to be blown away by it.
Runs until 17 June 2017 | Image: Paul Coltas