Wonderland is one of those shows that I had heard about, what feels like an age ago. A musical by Wildhorn (whose previous work I adore), starring Kerry Ellis…..well that sounded right up my street. I was therefore thrilled to be invited along to press night at the Churchill Theatre.
Wonderland puts a contemporary spin on the story of Alice in Wonderland. Alice is a 40 something, single mother to Ellie and is struggling to get on with life without her ex-husband and Ellie’s father. On what appears to be the worst day of her life, Alice, Ellie and their neighbor Jack, follow a White Rabbit into an out of service lift and find themselves in Wonderland. Whilst in Wonderland Alice, Ellie and Jack have to decide if they want to go ‘through the looking glass’ to uncover the hidden side of themselves.
Some of the songs in Wonderland are memorable such as ‘Together’ and ‘I am My Own Invention,’ however some of the other numbers, although maybe memorable, maybe not so for the right reasons such as super cheesy boy band number ‘One Knight.’ The book was often predictable with the ending being fairly obvious from the outset and some of the dialogue on the cringe-worthy side. Part of the problem is that the show seems unclear as to where it is going, is it rock, is it all out cheese or is it contemporary. I suspect it is trying to embrace all the above but Wonderland doesn’t quite hit home on any of them and struggling for a coherent theme.
The choreography by Lucie Pankhurst was one of the highlights for me. Each number was very different, from the angular ‘Worst Day’ to the leggy moves in ‘Advice from A Caterpillar.’ Each song was styled very differently and danced in its own unique way.
The casting in this show is superb. Kerry Ellis as Alice of course stands out although it isn’t until the end of the show that she really gets to showcase her vocal talents. My highlight of casting in Wonderland has to be Natalie McQueen as the Mad Hatter. Her number ‘I Will Prevail’ was one of my favourite numbers. She oozed character and charisma when displaying the tyrannical side of the Mad Hatter. Wendi Peters played the Queen of Hearts who had an impressive vocal presence and both Dominic Owen as the Cheshire Cat and Kayi Ushe as the Caterpillar have brilliant moves and kept me smiling throughout.
Wonderland is a pleasant musical with clear, if not obvious, moral storyline running through the show. The show however is worth seeing for the cast and choreography alone and you will be in for a fun night out.