Toe Tapping Mad Fun Of Wonderland

20
April
2017

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REVIEW: Beccy Conway watches ‘Wonderland’ at The Mayflower, 18 April 2017

It’s been some time since I’ve been to see a completely new musical, so it’s with anticipation that I take my seat in the Mayflower stalls for the opening night of Wonderland in Southampton. Wonderland made its UK debut in Edinburgh in January, before embarking on a massive 30 venue tour.

A musical for true fans of musicals, Wonderland is in a similar vein to the likes of Wicked! It’s silly and brash, and generally a bit bonkers. But, would you expect anything less from a contemporary adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass?

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We begin outside a towering tenement block, as despondent single mother, Alice begins ‘the worst day ever’. Within the first few minutes she learns her ex-husband has remarried; discovers that her car has been stolen, making her late for work; and then she’s promptly fired – all on her 40th birthday.

With less astonishment than one might expect, Alice, her daughter Ellie (Naomi Morris) and their lovelorn neighbour Jack, spot the White Rabbit and follow him down a rabbit hole (or in this case, down in a broken lift!).

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(Dave Willetts plays the White Rabbit)

The trio are transported to Wonderland, full of all the familiar characters, each there to escape the ‘real world’. They are ruled over by the tyrannical Queen of Hearts (TV’s Wendi Peters), who spends her days merrily chopping of the heads of her subjects to confine them to her realm.

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(Wendi Peters plays Queen of Hearts)

The overarching theme is of desire for change. We watch as sensible Ellie steps through the Looking-Glass and reappears as a sassy teenager. Morris’ performance is a highlight for me; she pulls off both the mature daughter and rebellious teenager acts with brilliant comic timing.

Rachael Wooding, of Britain’s Got Talent 2016 fame, stars as Alice in the Southampton leg of the tour. Wooding’s voice is fantastic, although the rather weak script doesn’t always do this justice.

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The same can be said for Natalie McQueen’s Mad Hatter; McQueen gives the performance all she’s got but the storyline of her autocratic takeover of the Wonderland residents falls a little flat.

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Things feel rather rushed during Act 1, but this might be due, in part, to the requisite chaos of Wonderland. Its inhabitants are mad, after all… The comedy is what elevates Wonderland from what is otherwise a somewhat formulaic production. Wooding receives a laugh-out-loud reaction as she scolds Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee in a hilarious teacher-like moment; ‘You NEVER run with scissors!’

Overall, the choreography is fun, and the costumes are a playful nod to the classic depictions of Carroll’s infamous characters. Although I do struggle to differentiate between a few of the songs, Frank Wilhorn’s score and Jack Murphy’s lyrics are vibrant and incredibly catchy.

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If you’re on the lookout for a new toe-tapping musical to take the entire family to, Wonderland is extremely fun and it’s only in Southampton until Saturday 22nd April, so pick up your tickets now!