×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Wonderland: Alice’s New Musical Adventure

The creators have a few riddles to solve to add heart and clarity to their modern twist on Lewis Carroll's classic.

With:
Chloe - Julie Brooks Alice Cornwinkle - Janet Dacal Hector, El Gato - Jose Llana Mrs. Everheart, Queen of Hearts - Karen Mason Jack, White Knight - Darren Ritchie Madeline, Mad Hatter - Nikki Snelson Richard, Rabbit - Edward Staudenmayer Jabberwock - Tad Wilson Theo, Caterpillar - Tommar Wilson

The creators of “Wonderland: Alice’s New Musical Adventure” have a few riddles to solve to add heart and clarity to their modern twist on Lewis Carroll’s classic. The new show from composer Frank Wildhorn is getting a tryout as part of a musical-theater development venture at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center).

Strong ticket sales reveal an enduring interest in Alice and her unusual friends, and this musical variation offers pleasures from an engaging cast, top Broadway designers and a catchy score that returns Wildhorn to his pop music roots after gothic-styled Broadway shows “Jekyll and Hyde,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “Dracula, the Musical.”

The show is physically impressive, with Sven Ortel’s video projections adding an ethereal aura to Neil Patel’s sets. Susan Hilferty’s imaginative, time-spanning costumes and Paul Gallo’s lighting add to the visual rewards. And it sounds good, with a score that ranges from vaudeville to Broadway bombast, jazz, and variations on the last four decades of pop music.

But the story is confusing almost from the start, especially in the messier second act, when it drifts around and then rushes to an unemotional conclusion.

The book by director Gregory Boyd and lyricist Jack Murphy offers a modern Alice Cornwinkle (Janet Dacal), a descendent of Carroll’s original heroine, who is falling apart while struggling to have it all — a writing career, a husband and a young daughter. Husband Jack (Darren Ritchie) loves her, but he’s ready for divorce, and Alice is under constant pressure to finish her new book and come up with a title.

Hoping to save the marriage, daughter Chloe (Julie Brooks) jumps down the rabbit hole — or what passes for one in their Central Park West apartment building. She leaves clues for Alice to find her and hopefully rediscover what’s important in life as she meets an assortment of exotic characters in Wonderland.

The book troubles make it difficult for Dacal (“In the Heights”) to find the right balance in her performance. Though outfitted a bit like an older Annie, with red dress and red curls, she is vibrant with a touch of cynicism. But too often, Alice is left simply observing while other cast members get their star turns.

But what fun they are, from Karen Mason’s haughty, vaudeville-throwback Queen of Hearts, to Tommar Wilson’s slinky caterpillar. Jose Llana spins some Latin charm into Cheshire Cat variation El Gato; Edward Staudenmayer is flustered and nervous as the Rabbit; and Tad Wilson injects tension into his performance as the Jabberwock, though his song, “Misunderstood,” doesn’t help move Alice to her discoveries.

The same is true of the Mad Hatter’s “Nick of Time,” a vibrant dance number led by a deliciously wicked Nikki Snelson, who is better served by her opening song, “The Mad Hatter.”

Ritchie has lots of suave charm as the White Knight. He leads a backup group in the evening’s best song, the boy band-fashioned “One Knight,” which allows choreographer Marguerite Derricks to put a comical spin on the stereotypical moves.

As in “The Wizard of Oz,” the Wonderland characters represent a fantasy versions of the people constantly pressuring Alice, but there’s not yet a delightful or tear-filled resolution at the end of this rainbow.

The production is the first effort from the Tampa center’s new Broadway Genesis Project, meant to kickstart new musicals. President Judith Lisi emphasizes that it’s “called Broadway Genesis, not Broadway Terminus. We’re still working on it.”

Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure

David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa, Fla.; 960 seats; $72.50

Production: A Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center presentation, in association with Alley Theater, of a musical in two acts with music by Frank Wildhorn, book by Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd, lyrics by Jack Murphy; additional dialogue by Phoebe Hwang. Directed by Boyd. Music direction, vocal arrangements, Ron Melrose. Choreography, Marguerite Derricks.

Crew: Sets, Neil Patel; costumes, Susan Hilferty; lighting, Paul Gallo; sound, Jon Weston; video and projection, Sven Ortel; hair and wigs, Tom Watson; orchestrations, Kim Scharnberg; music coordinator, Mark Neuenschwander; special effects, Chic Silber, technical supervisor, Christopher Smith; production stage manager, Kenneth J. Davis. Opened, reviewed Dec. 5, 2009. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

Cast: Chloe - Julie Brooks Alice Cornwinkle - Janet Dacal Hector, El Gato - Jose Llana Mrs. Everheart, Queen of Hearts - Karen Mason Jack, White Knight - Darren Ritchie Madeline, Mad Hatter - Nikki Snelson Richard, Rabbit - Edward Staudenmayer Jabberwock - Tad Wilson Theo, Caterpillar - Tommar WilsonWith: Sae La Chin, Carrie Cimma, Colleen Craig, Dan Domenech, Krystal Ellsworth, Mallauri Esquibel, Lori Eure, Derek Ferguson, Ashley Galvan, Laura Karklina, Mary Mossberg, Stefan Raulston, Julius Anthony Rubio, Danny Stiles.

More Scene

  • Mj Rodriguez, Alexis Martin Woodall, Ryan

    Peabody Winners Talk Empowered Women and Social Justice Challenges on Red Carpet

    The theme on the red carpet at the 78th annual Peabody Awards? Empowering women. On Saturday, Peabody winners gathered at Cipriani Wall Street, and one of the hot topics on everyone’s mind was the wave of female empowerment spreading across the industry. From Peabody’s Career Achievement Award recipient Rita Moreno to shows like ‘Killing Eve’ [...]

  • CAP D'ANTIBES, FRANCE - MAY 18:

    Cannes: Robert Pattinson, Shailene Woodley Attend Starry Vanity Fair Party

    It’s true what they say about Batman being a loner. On Saturday night, Robert Pattinson made his first public appearance since being cast as the new Dark Knight at this year’s Vanity Fair Party at the Cannes Film Festival. But while all the other A-list guests mingled and worked the crowd at the restaurant of [...]

  • Taron Egerton Cannes Film Festival 2019

    Taron Egerton Addresses ‘Rocketman’ Comparisons to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Takes Subtle Jab at Bryan Singer

    Taron Egerton says that he’s flattered by comparisons between his Elton John musical “Rocketman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” last year’s smash hit about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. “I’m proud that we’re mentioned in the same breath,” says Egerton, who plays John in the upcoming “Rocketman,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to a five-minute standing [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

  • Dua Lipa Tom Jones

    Dua Lipa and Tom Jones to Perform at amfAR's Cannes Gala (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety‘s Marc Malkin is on the scene at the Cannes Film Festival. Get the scoop on all the news, parties and more straight from the Croisette below. AmfAR’s upcoming Cannes gala is shaping up quite nicely. Sources tell Variety that the evening will feature performances by Dua Lipa and Tom Jones. And they’re not the only [...]

  • "Deadwood" Cast Describes Emotional Homecoming on

    'Deadwood' Cast Describes Emotional Homecoming on the Historic Set

    The phrase “Welcome the f— back” marks the billboards and posters for the return of “Deadwood,” but that sentiment doesn’t just apply to the audience. Returning to the town of Deadwood was a homecoming of sorts for the cast and crew of the HBO show, who shared that stepping back into the meticulously recreated late-1800s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content