Friday, 12 May 2017

Wonderland

The classic tale is relocated with a contemporary twist: a single parent accessing Wonderland via a tower-block

Written by Richard Barber


Hard to classify this one. Based, fairly loosely, on Lewis Carroll’s characters, here’s a modern take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The 2017 Alice (Kerry Ellis) is a 40-year-old single mum pretty browned off with life and dreaming of something, anything, that might break the spell. And nor does she spot that the man of her dreams, lovelorn Jack (Stephen Webb), lives downstairs in the same soulless tower block.

Enter the White Rabbit (a rather wasted Dave Willetts) who persuades Jack, Alice and her daughter, Ellie (Naomi Morris) to climb into the tower’s lift which then magically Richard-Barber-colour-176transports them to the mayhem that is Wonderland.

There they encounter the highly strung Queen of Hearts (a woefully underused Wendi Peters), as keen on scoffing jam tarts as beheading any passing miscreants; a suitably scatty March Hare (Ben Kerr); an over-the-top Cheshire Cat (Dominic Owen, channelling Alan Carr); and – boo! hiss! – an evil Mad Hatter (the excellent Natalie McQueen) intent on toppling Her Majesty.

The thread that runs through the re-telling of this tale is all to do with finding yourself so that when Jack, for instance, goes through the Looking Glass (given droll voice by an unseen John Finnemore), he emerges as the hero he’s always wanted to be. Similarly, Ellie turns into a version of Ab Fab’s Saffy and very funny she is, too, although like most of the young people in my life, she talks too quickly which means it’s sometimes hard to make out what she’s saying.

Kerry Ellis has progressed into a highly competent leading lady, her powerful singing voice now matched by her ability to convincingly inhabit a given role and with a strong sense of stagecraft. She’s the complete package.

I also liked Frank Wildhorn’s score (lyrics by Jack Murphy) with Alice’s opener, Worst Day of My life, Jack’s boy-band spoof, Oone Knight and the finale, Finding Wonderland, the best of the bunch. And it’s clear that some money has been spent on the production: both sets and costumes are colourful and witty.

Could the story have been a little stronger? Perhaps. The identity theme was in danger of being overplayed. But, if your taste is for something between adult pantomime and an animated cartoon and if you’re looking for a night out that would appeal to all the family, then check out the extensive tour details. An evening of harmless fun.

Wonderland is in Aberdeen from 16-20 May and closes in Bournemouth on 19 August. Visit www.wonderlandthemusical.com for full tour details.


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