This weekend I popped across the bridge to Bristol Hippodrome to see Wonderland The Musical ahead of it arriving in Wales.
Everything about the musical links into Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. However, the target audience of 8 and upwards suggests- like Alice in Wonderland- all is not as it seems.In Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy’s story, Alice is the divorced mother of teenage daughter, Ellie. Whilst we are introduced to the White Rabbit, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and Queen of Hearts. This is far from the Alice our childhood memory may recall.
And once you get past this, anything is possible. First following Dave Willetts’ soft spoken White Rabbit into the lift shaft of a London high-rise to the reward. To first fall for the charms of the Caterpillar (Kayi Ushe) it seems it is possible for Wonderland to be absorbed.Because it’s clear to see Alice has had the worst day ever, that it’s possible when you’re spinning so many plates you can’t see what’s in front of you- problems and opportunities, and that – yes – sometimes we do need to be reminded that life is better when we’re living it.
And when you give in to the story, because the music will get you, the strengths of the production are clear.
Kerry Ellis as Alice is belts out the soundtrack. Whilst at times it doesn’t seem in keeping with the character of this Alice, the talent is clear. There is a little cringe in Jack (Stephen Webb) becoming a hero and Ellie (Naomi Morris) becoming the ungrateful adolescent. But again, they manage to overcome the shortcomings of the characterisation to create memorable moments, and humour.For me, alongside Alice, the absolute making of the show was in Natalie McQueen’s Mad Hatter. I felt a little let down in the character when she first appeared (I love the Mad Hatter). The Looking Glass created one of the strongest characters, and created my favourite voice of the evening.
The storyline attempts to bring out a variety of themes, honing on the characters of Alice, Jack, Ellie and the Mad Hatter. Unfortunately there is little strong enough or honed enough in the script for the actors to work with. It feels a little like too much of Lewis Caroll has been lost in bringing the story to the stage.
Wendi Peters as The Queen of Hearts feels under-utilised, a talent of eating jam tarts doesn’t seem enough. Her belting voice is evident but her presence on stage doesn’t compare to her stage presence.
Fortunately, the storyline is lost within the strength of the cast, music and lyrics. Grace Smart’s costume design ensures the characters are conveyed, and Nick Richings’ lighting designer helps to accentuate Andrew Riley’s set.
Wonderland leaves you with a good feeling. That life can be difficult and challenging, but it’s always better to be living it. Wonderland The Musical is currently on tour across the UK. You can see all the tour dates, including Swansea and Llandudno via the Wonderland website.
Disclosure: I was invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All opinions and words contained are my own.