Arriving in the UK following great success in both America and Tokyo, this new take on the beloved Lewis Carroll tale is enjoyably charming… and rather darn cute.
Frank Wildhorn’s musical might not follow the conventional route we know for beloved Alice, but maybe that’s why we enjoyed it quite so much. Wonderland’s sickly and colourful world is enough to make you wish you could spend a few hours there. Just, without the crazy Queen of Hearts lurking anywhere near us, thanks.
West End leading lady Kerry Ellis stars as Alice. Having a difficult time battling work and life as a mother, she finds herself following her daughter, Ellie, as she chases a White Rabbit (Dave Willetts) into a mysterious and rather magical lift. The result: Wonderland. Once there, Alice and team face a set of different characters, all with a message and life lesson to be learnt. There’s even a handsome love interest in new and unexpectedly hunky neighbour, Jack (Stephen Webb).
With audible gasps of astonishment from many around us, Wonderland is a show that displays the best of Kerry Ellis vocally. A little muddled in the first act and totally charming (and feisty) come the second, there’s lots to smile at. It’s wonderfully enjoyable to see a character of two halves develop with the story; her voice always a treat. Her daughter Naomi Morris‘ Ellie also goes on quite the adventure too, from loveable child into frightful and funny teenager. The pair working great together.
However, it’s a star turn from Natalie McQueen as the Mad Hatter that almost steals the show. A small but enjoyable sub-plot, Hatter’s attempts to overthrow the Queen of Hearts is sadly underused — as is Wendi Peters‘ Queen of Hearts — meaning you bask in Natalie’s time on stage when it does come. The start of the second act, alongside a superb closing act duet with Alice, of noticeable success.
Joining recognisable characters from this beloved children’s story, there’s lots to keep your eyes fixated when the plot dips slightly. Although only the odd moment, it does distract from where a new character could be found or existing developed. Frank Wildhorn’s pop and funky musical numbers are brilliant, while Lucie Pankhurst’s staging is bright and brassy, fitting perfectly for the era.
Wonderland might not be a Shakespearean masterpiece, but it’s fun and captures what we all can’t help but love about these characters. And in a world full of hate, revisiting the magic of this tale is just what’s needed. Now, can we go through the Looking Glass and come back with a voice like Kerry Ellis, please?!
GT gives Wonderland at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley — 4/5
More information on Wonderland can be found here.