Muddy reviews: Wonderland at New Theatre, Oxford
With Hero mainlining pina coladas on a sun lounger in Barbados (while plotting Muddy’s imminent world domination, naturally), we despatched our resident culture vulture, Sarah Taylor, to Oxford’s New Theatre to review the brand new musical, Wonderland, last night. It’s on until Saturday, so nab those tickets pronto! Over to you, Sarah….
The show is a loose re-interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, taking the characters we know and love but jigging everything up and throwing in lots of jolly songs. It’s billed as suitable for children aged 8+, but in truth it isn’t so much a kids or a family show. Although there were a handful of little girls in Alice bands in the audience (yes, truly!), the audience members up on their feet and dancing at the end of the show were fully grown women. That’s because Alice, in this production, is now a single mum whose confidence has been undermined by her mean ex-husband. And when we meet her, she’s not only having the worst ever 40th birthday (her ex has just got re-married and she’s just been fired) but she’s also having a mid-life crisis, stuck in a rut and unable to act or change. Needless to say, this aspect of the plot went over the head of my 11 year old daughter.
With the help of her neighbour, Jack and daughter, Ellie, she sets off onto a journey of self-discovery as represented by Wonderland. Ellie, played by Naomi Morris, is one of two characters who steal the show: she has a strong, pure voice, real stage presence and gives a very convincing performance (she was my daughter’s favourite too). The other character I adored was played by the talented Kayi Ushe. His scene as the smooth, velvet-voiced Caterpillar is smokin’ hot and the mellow green lights and curling smoke create real atmosphere as he sings to Alice, asking, ‘Who are you?’ Loved it!
Wendi Peters (aka Cilla Battersby-Brown in Corrie) as Queen of Hearts holds the house with an incredibly strong voice – and cripes, can she hold a note too! She has a smaller role with just one number in the first half before re-emerging towards the end of the second half and as you’d expect the the TV veteran is a showbiz pro through and through.
The Looking Glass becomes a device for the main characters to go through in order to transform and reveal their true selves. No spoilers of course, but the consequences for Ellie and Alice’s neighbour, Jack are, let’s say, very entertaining. Alice though, can’t tell at first how she’s been transformed. But of course, it all comes out in the end when she’s put to the test and realises she’s the one who has to save the day. It’s an effusive modern take on an old favourite and ideal for an evening out with female friends. We dare you to wear Alice bands…
Wonderland is at The New Theatre Oxford until Sat 25 Feb. Tickets here
Words: Sarah Taylor