Wonderland is that rare thing, a big budget production, with a cast of top talent, stunning songs, sets and costumes, and a plot that appeals to everyone from tots to grand-parents. What’s not to like? What’s more, why isn’t it in residence in the West End when it’s every bit as good as Wicked?
Frank Wildhorn and Jack Murphy’s sparkling musical may, on paper, be a children’s story, a reworking of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but this refreshing show is updated with a plot that is familiar to all of us.
“I don’t want to live in the real world!” complains Alice, a divorced mother of a teenage girl, living in a grotty high rise.
Sapped of all her confidence and self-esteem by a messy marriage she turns her back on ‘Life’ and retreats into a good book to escape reality.
But will she ever find happiness in her mythical fantasy world, where a handsome hero saves the damsel in distress, or is it just a fairy-tale?
Real life takes a turn for the worse when her daughter Ellie is abducted by a white rabbit. Terrified for what might have happened to her Alice, and wimpy neighbour Jack, follow the trail right into Wonderland.
It turns out that this crackpot, madcap and thoroughly surreal world is inhabited by people – no, creatures – who were just like her. They all, at one time, were humans who wanted to escape real life for a sugar-coated fantasy world.
White Rabbit, once a judge, is affectionately played with wit and a certain sagacity, by West End legend Dave Willetts while the tyrannical Queen of Hearts is none other than former Corrie star Wendi Peters.
Alice meets the hyper Cheshire Cat (Dominic Owen), a seriously cool and chilled out Caterpillar (the seriously cool Kayi Ushe) and a very nervous March Hare (Ben Kerr) plus a menagerie of other weird and wonderful characters.
The drippy Jack undergoes a remarkable transformation after stepping into the looking glass. Stephen Webb who many will remember from The Jersey Boys, changes from Damian Lewis into a ginger version of Harry Styles, complete with his own boyband and a line in cheesy dialogue.
“That was for you, honey muffin,” he purrs after serenading the smitten Alice.
Wonderland is bonkers, charming and immensely entertaining. Wendi Peters, not on stage anywhere near long enough, is perfectly potty. “I am about to start my jam tart!” she roars, before tucking into the pastry.
Kerry Ellis as Alice is blonde, terribly nice, and convincing as a harrassed mum looking for an identity, fulfilment and that elusive Prince Charming.
Listen to the words of Worst Day and they’ll strike a chord. Her duet, This Is Who I Am, with the Mad Hatter – fellow blonde Natalie McQueen is a highlight. No, actually, pretty much every Wildhorn and Murphy musical number is a knockout.
I couldn’t help thinking how refreshing it would be to do away with the tired and much repeated fairytale Xmas pantomimes and put on shows like this from our leading children’s authors.
2017 UK Tour
May 8 – 13, Bristol Hippodrome
May 16 – 20, Aberdeen His Majesty’s Theatre
May 23 – 27, Lowestoft Marina Theatre
May 30 – Jun 4, Brighton Theatre Royal
June 6 – 10, Torquay Princess Theatre
June 12 – 17, Liverpool Empire
June 19 – 24, Dublin Bord Gáis Energy Theatre
June 26 – Jul 1, Llandudno Venue Cymru
July 3 – 8, Glasgow Kings Theatre
July 10 – 15, Stoke Regent Theatre
July 17 – 22, Milton Keynes Theatre
July 24 – 29, Swansea Grand Theatre
July 31 – Aug 5, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
July 7 – 12, Richmond Theatre
July 15 – 19, Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre
Kerry Ellis will guest star as Alice in the following venues: Bristol, Brighton, Liverpool, Stoke, Milton Keynes, Bournemouth
Rachael Wooding will guest star as Alice in the following venues: Aberdeen, Lowestoft, Torquay, Llandudno, Glasgow, Swansea, Wolverhampton, Richmond.
Subject to illness or injury, Kerry and Rachael are scheduled to perform at all evening performances in these venues.
Is it time for tea? Frank Wildhorn & Jack Murphy’s madcap and surreal musical, Wonderland, is an unmissable treat that is packed with sparkling performances, a refreshed and revitalised plot, and magical musical numbers.