Mayflower, Southampton – until 22 April 2017
Guest reviewer: Sarah Miatt
Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland has enchanted people for well over a century. The original books about the little girl with a big imagination has spawned hundreds of adaptations from stage plays to films, musicals to ballets and opera and even pop albums. Every version has inspired a new generation of fans and it remains one of the most popular stories in the world to this day.
Frank Wildhorn, Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd have created a whole new take on this classic story bringing bang up to date with the musical Wonderland. In this version Alice is a 40-year-old single mum having the worst birthday of her life. She misses her controlling and mean ex husband, refusing to believe she is better off without him despite the protestations of her young daughter, Ellie who is old before her years. Upon hearing Alice does not want to live in the real world any longer, the white rabbit appears and takes Ellie to Wonderland via the magical lift in their tower block forcing a reluctant Alice to follow taking any neighbour, Jack for the ride. There they meet all the Wonderland characters you would expect and the question is, do they want to remain there or return to the troubles in the real world.
This show is quite simply put, wonderful. It is visually pleasing. The contrast between the grey real world and the colourful wonderland is obvious and beautiful in the set. Particularly impressive pieces were the disco floored table for the tea party and the stunning looking-glass, whilst the lighting was just perfect.
Costumes, understated but just right, give a hint to who the characters are without being too obvious. The most spectacular costumes were The Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts which were stunning. But the whole look was very effective.
As a whole the cast were fantastic. Each completely enveloping the character they were portraying and staying in that role the whole time. Of the supporting cast special mentions must go to Kayi Ushe as the Caterpillar, his seventies soul number ‘Advice From A Caterpillar‘ was a definite highlight. Dominic Owen as the Cheshire Cat was also outstanding, he was completely bonkers and very funny.
Jack played by Stephen Webb was lovely and heroic with a beautiful singing voice. Whilst Naomi Morris as daughter Ellie appeared very much younger than her years, playing the exaggerated teenager version which was very sweet.
Natalie McQueen was superb as The Mad Hatter, she was funky and Mad and rocked out her number ‘The Mad Hatter‘ to perfection. Musical veteran Dave Willetts was a charming White Rabbit particularly shining in his duet ‘I am my own invention‘ with Alice. Wendi Peters as The Queen of Hearts was a little underused but perfect in the role. She was bratty and funny with a very powerful singing voice.
Last but by no means least, Rachael Wooding in the title role was simply stunning. She sang the songs with ease and played the role with both humour and a heartbreaking realism at times. Whilst she shone in all the numbers her highlights for me were in the second half with ‘Once More I Can See‘ and ‘Finding Wonderland‘.
This is an uplifting, flawless show full of talented people and suitable for all the family. Go and see it.