Wonderland, the multi Grammy and Tony Award nominated musical, opened at the New Alex Theatre last night. The updated story of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass transports Alice to modern times, she is no longer a curious girl, but a middle aged mom who refuses to face up to real life. We follow Alice on an adventure in Wonderland which is as mystical, whimsical and magical as Lewis Carroll told us, and in the hands of a superb cast, it is a total triumph.
We meet Alice at a low point in her life. Out of work, getting divorced and living in a tower block where the lifts don’t work, Alice longs to do something different with her life, but lacks the drive or determination. Her daughter Ellie is more like the mother than Alice, and shy neighbour Jack, who is in love with Alice, doesn’t even register with her. But her constant proclamations about not wanting to live in the real world bring a visitation from a White Rabbit which leads Alice, Ellie and Jack to Wonderland, a land where real life isn’t real, and it’s always time for tea. But a trip through the looking glass changes both Ellie and Jack, and when the Mad Hatter is also tempted to go through the mirror, Wonderland is threatened forever. Will Alice take her trip through the looking glass and finally grow up. saving Wonderland in the process?
The cast is perfection in every role. West End Star Kerry Ellis is a wonderful Alice, her soaring voice is crystal clear and she is such an engaging presence that you can’t help rooting for Alice, even though she is, if truth be told, very annoying. Naomi Morris is a real talent uncovered as Ellie, easily switching between the lovely young girl, and a Kevin and Perry-esque teenager. Stephen Webb is also just lovely as Jack, especially when he transforms into a ‘rock star’ in a hilarious ‘through the looking glass’ moment that is played with its tongue firmly in cheek.
Wendi Peters is hilarious as the Queen of Hearts, it is almost worth the admission to see her walk alone, and she steals every scene she is in – you almost wish she was in more scenes. Dave Willets is the real heart of the show as The White Rabbit, he underplays the role so that the rabbit is gentle and grandfatherly, and this works so well. Mention must also be given to the incredible Natalie McQueen as the Mad Hatter, a tour de force performance with Liza Minnelli style musical numbers and machine gun style dialogue. When McQueen is on stage, you hardly look at anyone else.
The musical numbers are sure to be future classics, and the staging is impeccable, with a set that really does allow you to feel like you have somehow fell down a rabbit hole.
Wonderland is wonderful, I would highly recommend suspending your belief and heading to a world where it is always tea time.
Wonderland – New Alex Theatre, Birmingham
Tuesday 7th – Saturday 11th February
Click here for ticket information.