Wonderland is a contemporary take on Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
The story begins in New York City- Alice finds out her ex-husband is re-marrying (whom she still cares for), her car has been stolen and she gets fired all in the same day, leaving her worried for her and her daughter Ellie. But when a rabbit appears and Ellie chases it down the rabbit hole (a broken elevator shaft) Alice has no choice but to follow her along with her soon to be love interest- Jack. They find themselves in the strange world of Wonderland. A place of endless tea parties, the Queen of Hearts who beheads people she takes a dislike to and the Mad Hatter who wants to overthrow her.
I thought the concept of bringing the show into present day was an interesting one. Other stories have been given a modernisation and it has worked well, so I was hopeful that this would appeal to both fans of the original story as well as those who aren’t too familiar with the tale.
The cast began with a promising opening number ‘Worst Day’ to emphasize the plight of Alice. She needs some good news and at this point you sympathise with the character and hope things start to look up for her and Ellie.
Sadly, once the characters are whisked away to Wonderland- that is where things started to go rapidly downhill for me. I understand the need for haphazardness on stage, the inhabitants of Wonderland are meant to be unpredictable and unconventional in the way they dress and act- but the whole thing was just too busy.
As an audience member, this aspect seemed to have been taken a step too far. The songs were all too loud to enjoy, making the words hard to follow and difficult to listen to. Consequently, I lost interest, no longer cared about the characters and became quite irritated by how slowly the story moved along.
With that said, there were a couple of standout performances- Kayi Ushe was particularly good as the Caterpillar and stole the show with his rendition of ‘Advice From A Caterpillar’ with all the confidence, charisma and complications that make his character to appealing.
Naomi Morris was one of the actors to consistently get the laughs after she goes through the looking glass and turns from responsible young lady to hormonal teenager in a matter of seconds. With all the dramatic shrugs and laboured lines one would expect from a moody madam-she embraced the alter ego of her character and it paid off.
The show sailed too close to being like a pantomime than a musical for me. I could not fault the actors for their energy and commitment the project but it felt as if they were trying to hard to mask the poor script and overall disappointing take on this beloved, classic tale. In my opinion, this should have been left well alone.
Tagged in Liverpool Empire Theatre