This new take on Lewis Carroll’s beloved novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass follows an older Alice than we’ve come to expect. Divorced with a teenage daughter named Ellie, Alice is dissatisfied with life and dreams of something bigger.
Having just been fired from her job as a travel agent and learned that her ex-husband is remarrying, Alice thinks today couldn’t get any worse. Then a White Rabbit snatches up Ellie and brings her down to the basement of their high-rise apartment. Accompanied by her neighbour, Jack, who is in love with Alice, though Alice seems blind to it, the two journey down the elevator to its mysterious bottom floor and discover the wonders of Wonderland.
If you’re a fan of Lewis Carroll’s works, Wonderland marks a return to the original source material that was much absent from the recent Tim Burton/Disneynified film versions of the books in 2010 and 2016. Mind you, the particular take seen here doesn’t feel as ‘new’ as it thinks it is. At times, it feels the play is maybe lacking in a production budget that would make its diegesis as big as the movies, the issue here being that the characters, songs and choreography are never all that strong to carry the play through, as they are largely forgettable.
On the bright side, the ensemble can certainly sing for their supper and the cast are impressive. Kerry Ellis is truly excellent as Alice, immediately likeable and a beautiful singer. Wendy Peters, who audiences might recognise as Cilla Battersby-Brown in Coronation Street, is also superb, especially in the second act, but it’s Stephen Webb, who plays Jack in a role reminiscent of Barry Bostwick in The Rocky horror Picture Show, who steals the show in the first act when he transforms into the hero Alice thinks she wants him to be. Meanwhile, Naomi Morris earns laughs as teenager Ellie.
Wonderland is pleasant enough as a musical but doesn’t stand out from the competitive plays that are lining up Broadway and West End, and now make their way over here. Maybe this is just one for the kids.