Reviewed by Katie Allen
Crazy and Bonkers but full of Girl Power!
I’m a big musical theatre fan but had not heard of Wonderland so was intrigued when I saw it was coming to Southampton, I was excited to get tickets.
It is a modern retelling of the classics; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with this Alice being a down-on-her-luck single mother of a teenage daughter. Her ex-husband has remarried, she’s been fired and dropped her keys down a grate. And then she sees a rabbit!
What follows is a completely bonkers tale of finding what you need within yourself. Some help is provided along the way by an eccentric cast of loons including the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, the Dormouse and of course the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts.
Act one starts with the backdrop of a drab, grey tower block. There is a strong opening number of “Worst Day” from Alice and the company. Alice, her daughter Ellie and Jack (the waste coordinator from the local council) follow the White Rabbit “Down the Rabbit Hole” and explode into colour in “Wonderland”. Alice, Ellie and Jack explore the crazy world and hear the philosophies of the inhabitants who are happy having their heads cut off by the Queen of Hearts in perpetuity. Alice is taken in by this lifestyle but Ellie wants her to stand up for herself and live in the real world. The Looking Glass provides the opportunity to change your personality and unleash a new you. Ellie, frustrated with her mother’s reticence jumps through and the compliant, dutiful daughter changes into a moody teenager. Jack becomes the archetypal, charismatic leading man and with his own boy band perform the number “One Knight”.
Alice is still too scared to take the plunge so Ellie strops off in a teenage huff and meets the kookie, shy, insecure Mad Hatter. Ellie persuades her to find the confidence to stand up to the Queen of Hearts by going through the looking glass too.
We finally meet the Queen at the ubiquitous Tea Party and once Alice sees her malevolence in addition to her out of control daughter and the now evil Hatter, with the support of Jack she goes through the mirror herself.
Act two opens with a sparkling performance of “I Will Prevail” from the Mad Hatter who has now fully evolved into a maniacal dictator. She imprisons Ellie and the new improved Alice (although we’re not yet sure how improved) has to rescue her. What follows are a couple of beautiful duets. A father and daughter style coupling with Alice and the White Rabbit (I Am My Own Invention) and a girl power duet (almost Wicked in style) between Alice and the Hatter (This Is Who I Am). The latter song persuades the Hatter that her old self could be just as strong without the evil undertones so back through the Looking Glass she goes.
We meet the Queen again but this time her subjects stand up for themselves with Alice providing the strong leadership they needed.
Overall I enjoyed the show very much. It is a colourful cacophony and great to see such strong female roles in theatre. Ellie in particular was honestly and comically realised by Naomi Morris and her song “Home” was sung so sweetly you could hear a pin drop – especially in the a capella reprise. Both Alice and the Hatter (Rachel Wooding and Natalie McQueen) lead the show powerfully and Wendi Peters’ cameo as the Queen of Hearts captivated the audience whenever she was on stage (which wasn’t for long enough in my opinion).
If I had any criticisms it would be that the story lacked some cohesion and the dialogue became a little shrill in places.
As usual we enjoyed our trip to the Mayflower. Whilst the theatre itself doesn’t have a car park there are lots nearby as well as the railway station. We choose Grosvenor Square just a short 5 min walk away and it only cost £2 flat fee after 6pm.
Tickets cost from £20 to £46 (booking fees may apply).
Wonderland is at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton from 18-22 April 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.mayflower.org.uk or call the box office on 02380 711811.
Mayflower Theatre, Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1GE | 02380 711811