Wonderland: A New Alice

  • Our critic's rating:
    April 1, 2011
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    Review by Tulis McCall
    (18 Apr 2011)

    I have discovered that bad theatre keeps me up at night. When I get home from seeing a not-so-very-good show, I cannot get to sleep.

    After seeing Wonderland I was awake until 3:00 AM.

    What the heck happened here? If any of you remember Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland you can pretty much kiss that story goodbye. And if you don’t remember it, I highly recommend you pick it up again. It is a spectacular read.

    Meanwhile, back on Broadway…. THIS Alice is living in the land of Queens (get it?) having just separated from her husband. She is now nearly a single mother, raising her daughter Chloe (Carly Rose Sonenclar) with the assistance of her mother in law Edwina (Karen Mason). When the book Alice submitted to a publisher is returned, both she and her daughter declare that life, and particularly today, is pretty crappy. Chloe goes off to have some soup with Gran, and Alice lies down for a nap, only to wake to the presence of the White Rabbit hurrying by. She follows of course.

    The main deal in this Wonderland is that there is a new Hatter in town (Karen Shindle), and She is MAD. The old hatter is a forlorn little guy, and we don’t hear much from him. The new Hatter, whose hat is t-i-n-y, may I just say, has her eye on de-throning the Queen of Hearts (Karen Mason again and she is FABULOUS). Alice’s arrival puts a wrinkle in the plan, and to get Alice where it hurts, the Hatter travels to Queens with the March Hare (Danny Stiles )to kidnap Chloe.

    In the mean time, Alice has developed a coterie – sort of like Dorothy – in the form of the White Rabbit (White Rabbit), The Cheshire Cat, El Gato (Jose Llana), the Caterpillar (E. Clayton Cornelious), and a new arrival in town – a White Knight (Darren Ritchie) who is white through and through. This is a talented and funny foursome, but their journey is pulled out of thin air.

    After Alice’s side trip to visit a Victorian Gentleman and take a stroll through the Hall of Mirrors, the team rescues not only Chloe but all the people enslaved by the Mad Hatter. Jack, however, is sacrificed in a deadly combat with the Hatter. But before Alice and her daughter leave, the folk in Wonderland explain that when Alice’s real life got interrupted (she was mother to her three brothers – Hmnnn….. could that be her team in Wonderland?) her trip to Wonderland was postponed and the Mad Hatter came into being. On this trip Alice is there to find herself, and understand that Wonderland was inside Alice all along.

    Translation: “There’s No Place Like Home.”

    There is no Door Mouse, no croquet game, no Mock Turtle, no Lobster Quadrille, no courtroom and no tarts. Wonderland is a sort of Disney-zed creation that has about as much to do with Lewis Carroll’s book as lightning as to do with the lightning bug.

    Now, all of this would be acceptable if the book, thin though it is, held together and the music was something more than sophomoric. I mean, just look at The Book Of Mormon. You can’t get more infantile and idiotic – but it all works.

    Sadly this one does not. Of course it may succeed like it’s older sister Wicked, which is just as loud and meaningless, and has been running for nearly eight years. But from over here, this show is all spectacle with no cleverness and no heart beat.

    (Tulis McCall) What the popular press said...

    "The desire to create a traditional narrative arc from the unruly dreamscape of Carroll’s original results in a convoluted story line pitting the good guys against the bad"
    Charles Isherwood for NY Times

    "Most songs mark time without moving the story or the audience."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for NY Daily News

    "There's also so much laborious exposition and overexplaining, you'd think this flat new Broadway musical was inspired not by Lewis Carroll, but by Stephen Hawking."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "A hummable, cheerful Broadway fairy tale best suited to kids and their parents. "
    Philip Boroff for Bloomberg

    "Hilferty's splashy Wonderland duds do create an arresting visual picture of a beguiling alternative universe, but when you go out humming the costumes, it's a sure sign of a failed production."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "Not to put too fine a point on it, but the show is awful in every way."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "Sports good performances, snazzy costumes and even some attractive tunes "
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "The actors all work hard and sing well, but they don’t stand a chance amid this witless chaos.... Fun-free and charm-challenged."
    David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter

    "There is a distinct lack of wonder in 'Wonderland,' the new Frank Wildhorn musical at the Marquis. Unless one was to wonder how a big, Broadway musical based on Lewis Carroll's wildly inventive and delectably fantastical characters can be so utterly devoid of the aforementioned elements. "
    Steven Suskin for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Bloomberg - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter - Variety