Wonderland

January 25, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

★★★★☆    Wonderful

Edinburgh Playhouse: Fri 20 – Sat 28 Jan 2017
Review by Martin Gray

You don’t have to go down a rabbit hole to find Wonderland, it’s at the Playhouse until Saturday and on tour round the British Isles until August.

Alice is having the Worst Day. The controlling ex she’d have back in a second is getting remarried, her car’s been stolen, she’s got the sack… Nice guy Jack from downstairs hasn’t a Cheshire cat in hell’s chance of cheering her up, while sensible daughter Ellie’s optimism falls on deaf ears.

Kerry Ellis (Alice). Photo: Wonderland

All Alice wants is to be in a colourful fantasyland, somewhere with a hero to rescue her.

Hang on, is that a White Rabbit?

In two shakes of a bunny’s tail, Alice, Ellie and Jack find themselves in Wonderland, where the responsibilities of the real world are replaced by a never-ending teatime, replete with jam tarts.

Mind, the Red Queen may just look at you and shout ‘Off with her head’…

How many adaptations of and spins on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass have we seen over the years? There’s been everything from the Disney cartoon to Tim Burton’s freakifying of Helena Bonham Carter to Bryan Talbot’s superb graphic novel Alice in Sunderland. Does the world really need another musical version?

As it turns out, yes! This has something new to offer in the shape of a splendid variety of catchy songs, sharply tweaked characters and a message that’s abundantly clear without being rammed down our throats, Drink Me label attached.

perfectly cast

Kerry Ellis, she of Wicked, We Will Rock You, Cats – you name it, she’s conquered it – is perfectly cast as Alice, who’s hit 40 and lost her spirit. Ellis can do lovely in a suburban way that suits the role, but there’s nothing ordinary about her voice, it’s an astonishing instrument.

Stephen Webb (Jack) and Kerry Ellis (Alice) Photo: Wonderland

And she’s well matched by Natalie McQueen’s brilliantly bonkers Mad Hatter, whose arc gifts her the best lines, which she delivers with relish. Hatter and Alice’s duet This is Who I Am raises the roof in a way that nods to Wicked’s Defying Gravity without being in any way a copy.

The other best number for two, I Am My Own Invention, comes from Alice and the White Rabbit, in the form of Les Mis legend Dave Willetts. It’s a gorgeous, lyrical statement that you don’t have to conform to anyone’s idea of who you are. Having spent most of the show in an extended cameo, Willetts gets to unleash his star quality and beautiful tone.

Also not taking a big part, but making a huge impression, is Red Queen Wendi Peters, who’s come a long way since her Corrie days as Cilla Battersby-Brown. Looking more than a little Dame Angela Lansbury, she shows off her comic chops and serious pipes on two witty numbers, Hail the Queen and Off With Their Heads.

rather the hottie

And there’s more. There’s Stephen Webb’s likeable Jack who, when he takes his specs off is – surprise! – rather the hottie. He has great fun as a Boyzone-style shining knight, while Naomi Morris has a fine time as Ellie before and after she goes through a rather chatty Looking Glass.

There’s Ben Kerr as a charming March Hare, Kayi Ushe as a soulful Caterpillar/duvet, Dominic Owen’s dandy Cheshire Cat… the entire ensemble is full of verve. They may not feature in every one of Frank Wildhorn and Jack Murphy’s numbers, but along with the orchestra – the Alice Band? – they’re the backbone of the show.

The sets are eye-catching too, from Alice’s real world block of flats, a nightmare of forced perspective, to the subtle rabbit hole light tunnel that frames Wonderland.

This is a new musical so you might not be singing along, but it’s a safe bet you’ll be singing a song or two on the way out.

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
Friday 20 – Saturday 28 January 2017.
Daily, not Sun: 7.30pm. Matinees Weds & Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and booking details: www.atgtickets.com/shows/wonderland/edinburgh-playhouse/

Tour Website: www.wonderlandthemusical.com
Twitter: @WonderlandStage
Facebook: WonderlandStage

Wonderland on tour 2017:
20 – 28 Jan Edinburgh *
Edinburgh Playhouse
0844 871 3014 Book online
30 Jan – 4 Feb Sunderland *
Sunderland Empire
0844 871 3022 Book online
6 – 11 Feb Birmingham *
New Alexandra Theatre
0844 871 3011 Book online
13 – 18 Feb Southend **  
Cliffs Pavilion
01702 351 135 Book online
20 – 25 Feb Oxford **
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
27 Feb – 4 Mar Grimsby **
Auditorium
0300 300 0035 Book online
6 – 11 Mar York **
Grand Opera House
0844 871 3024 Book online
13 – 18 Mar Bromley *
Churchill Theatre
020 3285 6000 Book online
21 – 25 Mar Derry
Millennium Forum
028 7126 4455 Book online
27 Mar – 1 Apr Belfast
Grand Opera House
028 9024 1919 Book online
3 – 8 Apr Woking *
New Victoria Theatre
0844 871 7645 Book online
10 – 15 Apr Blackpool **
Opera House
0844 856 1111 Book online
18 – 22 Apr Southampton **
Mayflower
023 8071 1811 Book online
24 – 30 Apr Manchester *
Palace Theatre
0844 871 3019 Book online
2 – 6 May Wimbledon *
New Wimbledon Theatre
0844 871 7646 Book online
8 – 13 May Bristol *
Hippodrome
0844 871 3012 Book online
16 – 20 May Aberdeen **
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641 122 Book online
23 – 27 May Lowestoft **
Marina Theatre
01502 533 200 Book online
30 May – 4 Jun Brighton *
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650 Book online
6 – 10 Jun Torquay **
Princess Theatre
0844 871 3023 Book online
12 – 17 Jun Liverpool *
Empire
0844 871 3017 Book online
20 – 24 Jun Dublin
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre
0844 847 2455 Book online
26 Jun – 1 Jul Llandudno **
Venue Cymru
01492 872 000 Book online
3 – 8 Jul Glasgow **
Kings Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online
10 – 15 Jul Stoke *
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649 Book online
17 – 22 Jul Milton Keynes *
Milton Keynes Theatre
0844 871 7652 Book online
24 – 29 Jul Swansea **
Grand Theatre
01792 636000 Book online
31 Jul – 5 Aug Wolverhampton **
Grand Theatre
01902 429 212 Book online
7 – 12 Aug London **
Richmond Theatre
0844 871 7651 Book online
14 – 19 Aug Bournemouth *
Pavilion Theatre
0844 576 3000 Book online

* Kerry Ellis will guest star as Alice in these venues.
** Rachel Wooding will guest star as Alice in these venues.

The role of Alice for all other venues is yet to be announced.

ENDS

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Comments (1)

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  1. Kirsty Boyle says:

    I agree with all of this – I loved it and can see why there have been the Wicked comparisons throughout previews. It feels like it will become a cult classic and the belt numbers will be a favourite for every drama school review show in years to come.

    A really enjoyable show and I hope it goes on to great success!

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