A new theme park musical has just opened at the Marquis Theatre. It’s called Wonderland. It might simply be called Land for there isn’t much wonder to behold in this production directed by Gregory Boyd. It’s for all those that can’t get to Orlando and have surplus cash to spend on an overly loud, not very funny, intermittently tuneful, reimagined so-so version of Alice in Wonderland.
In this version Alice (Janet Dacal) is a frustrated children’s book writer who has just received another rejection letter. She is spending the first night in a new apartment in Queens with her daughter Chloe (an excellent Carly Rose Sonenclar). She is separated from her husband, has her mother-in-law, Edwina (Karen Mason) helping out and has just hit her noggin’ in the freight elevator which conveniently sends her off to Nightmareland, I mean Wonderland, with a headache – which many might find they share after leaving the show.
If you’re willing to go along for the ride the creators will take you for a ride where you will meet new incarnations of the beloved characters found in the original illustrations by John Tenniel which are brought to animated life on the show curtain and have nothing to do with the production on view.
Edward Staudemayer is an embarrassingly unfunny White Rabbit. Ditto his obnoxious cousin Morris the March Hare as portrayed by Danny Stiles. Both would make a better rabbit stew.
Among the crazy characters Alice meets when she follows the White Rabbit and falls down the elevator shaft are a jazzy caterpillar (E. Clayton Cornelious) and El Gato (Jose Llana) who still thinks he can become invisible and Jack, the White Knight (a fine Darren Ritchie) who has one of the only refreshing and truly entertaining numbers of the evening – “One Knight” backed up by four Fellow Knights outfitted as polo players with nice choreography by Marguerite Derricks.
Mr. Wildhorn does have a way with a tune. And musical styles. But instead of a consistent score the songs tend to be a pastiche of other songs (bringing in references to Evita, The Music Man, South Pacific and Gypsy) and power ballads that want to outdo any other power ballad that you have ever heard before. Way beyond the vocal range of Ms. Dacal and Kate Shindle as The Mad Hatter. I hope there is a throat doctor on call at all times.
There isn’t much whimsy or wit in the flat book by Gregory Boyd & Jack Murphy – just a lot of modern day references done tongue in cheek which all but disappear in the second act.
Karen Mason as The Queen of Hearts, decked out in extremely imaginative costumes by Susan Hilferty has a wonderful Second Act number – “Off With Their Heads” in which she saves the show from completely falling apart but unashamedly milks the audience to applaud her efforts. She and The Mad Hatter vie for control of Wonderland as Alice does her best to leave and get home to her daughter (in Wizard of Oz style) who has been kidnapped by said Hatter pretending to be a marriage counselor.
Nice visuals (set design Neil Patel) and video projections (Sven Ortel) and Paul Gallo’s lighting design cannot disguise the fact that Wonderland fails to evoke much excitement or enjoyment.
www.wonderlanonbroadway.com Photo: Michael Daniel
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