Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, March 24, 2011


In less time than it has taken me to type this first sentence (including erasing and re-typing the two typos I have already made) the story of Wonderland (A New Alice.  A New Musical) is fully told.  Yes, in about 37 seconds, the entire plot of the show is thrown on the table and then you are stuck there for over 2 more hours waiting... praying... for something... anything to happen.  Were it not for the brilliantly hued lighting and video projection effects (Paul Gallo and Sven Ortel), the masterfully crafted and elaborate costumes (Susan Hilferty and Tom Watson) and some of the music (Frank Wildhorn and Jack Murphy), I think I just might have slit my wrists right there in the 6th row, Orchestra.

Don't get me wrong, the concept is intriguing - how will they modernize Alice?  What will she do?  Who will she meet when she falls down the rabbit hole?   The answer is, they don't, nothing, and nobody new. It's the same old story with exactly the characters you might expect to meet - except they have turned the show in to an American Idol-like scene by scene, pedestrian performance piece. Schlocky characters speak in fairy tale double-talk, make veiled theatre references, upstage each other on purpose, steal song-bites and references from other shows, and expect us to laugh at the result.

As for the talent - it's decent - if not unknown, virtually all around.  The caterpillar, E. Clayton Cornelious, is a smooth, sultry, soulful character.  El Gato, Jose Llana, turns up the Latin heat even if he does resemble Freddie Prince reincarnated on stage.  The Mad Hatter, Kate Shindle, a tall drink of water, acts mean, but lacks any real depth or reason for so being.  The Queen of Hearts, Karen Mason, (think Dame Edna) tries too hard to steal the scenes - overtly pointing at the orchestra conductor in her one number as if she's in charge, not him.  Last, and close to least, Alice, Janet Dacal, is merely dragged from scene to scene meeting these outlandish characters but simply goes nowhere and adds nothing of interest to the character.

This genre may appeal to the younger, teenage demographic, but it's certainly not for the 3 month old crying baby in the back of the theatre whose mother was ushered out and hopefully dumped down and open elevator stack head first for even thinking of entering a performance space with an infant).  Even the two goom-bas from Lawn-Guyland behind us who openly chatted throughout the entire performance as if they they were in their living room watching TV were more interesting than what was unfolding on stage.

If I had to sum it up - the evening was a technical hit yet a creative bomb.  The visually stunning sets, lighting and costumes, brilliantly staged scenes and expertly choreographed numbers stand in stark contrast to the thin and vaguely American Idol-like, pop-sounding score (the louder you turn up the volume, the better it gets, right?) and a book with little substance and even less originality.