Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Wonderland

The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Four stars

Outside a high-rise block , Alice is celebrating her fortieth birthday by having the worst day of her life. The lift is broken, her car's been stolen and she's about to be sacked from her job for being late. To add insult to injury, her ex husband she still holds a cowed candle for has just announced he's remarrying. Only Alice's sensible daughter Ellie is there to keep everything together. When Ellie disappears down the lift shaft with Dave Willetts' avuncular White Rabbit, Alice and her socially awkward neighbour Jack are forced to follow into the abyss.

This isn't the most obvious opening to a musical inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice stories, but this is what you get in composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Jack Murphy's show, with an original book co-written by Murphy and Gregory Boyd. Adapted by Robert Hudson for the show's UK debut following a short Broadway run in 2011, the Wonderland the trio fall into in Lotte Wakeham's production is a multi-coloured kaleidoscope peopled with cartoon grotesques who could have stepped out of a Katy Perry or a Lady Gaga pop video.

While the songs retain a poppy infectiousness that allows for a boy band pastiche, power ballads and everything inbetween, this is an Alice for the Women's March generation, as both Kerry Ellis' Alice and Naomi Morris' Ellie are empowered to stand up to Natalie McQueen's Mad Hatter and Wendi Peters' Queen of Hearts. Ellis and McQueen in particular are in fine voice as they eventually find common ground in a fantastical fable that's about women standing up to bullies and taking control of their own destiny without fear.

The Herald, January 26th 2017

ends

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