Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Alice in Wonderland, A Musical
Now, the Enchanted Rose Theatre and producer/director Vernon Poitras are bringing us the North American premiere of yet another version: Alice in Wonderland, A Musical. This one opened in England about ten years ago and is just now making its first trans-Atlantic crossing. To Albuquerque!
It is an adaptation by John Wells, but there is very little adapting. It appears to be verbatim from Lewis Carroll, encompassing almost all of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Only a few characters and episodes have been left out. None of Through the Looking-Glass is here, so there's no Tweedledum and Tweedledee or Humpty Dumpty or Jabberwocky, but there is plenty of other stuff, most of it familiar but not all.
I wish I could say that the addition of music by Carl Davis, an American-born British composer and conductor, adds a lot to the theatrical experience. But, except for some parodies of opera in the Queen of Hearts scenes, I found the songs forgettable, and often just wanted the actors to get on with the story. There are about 30 songs listed in the program (to be fair, some are reprises), and about half of them could have been cut.
A fantastic story needs fantastic staging, and it gets it in this production. Except for a few technical glitches with the sound, everything went off very well at the performance I attended. Costumes by Erin Moots and props by Nina Dorrance are terrific. The sets designed by Vernon Poitras are perfect for the fast and frequent scene changes. When Alice is inside the White Rabbit's house and suddenly grows back to her normal size, the huge arm and leg protruding from the window and door are hilarious to behold. A lot of credit also goes to Carla Erickson, the music director, and to Vicki Marie Singer, the stage manager, for coordinating this complicated staging.
Although there are a lot of impressive things about this production, my favorite bit of stagecraft is the puppetry and voice of the adorable Dormouse. I think the ones who should get credit for this (since they are hidden, I can't be sure) are Mickey Gammill and Howard Burchett and Julian Singer-Corbin. The other small animals are played by children, who are absolutely precious.
The cast numbers twenty, and includes some of the most talented musical theater performers in town. Jessica Quindlen, who almost never leaves the stage, looks and acts exactly like the Alice of your imagination; she couldn't be better. Among the other actors, the ones making the biggest impression are: Tim MacAlpine and Bryan Andrew Lambe as the Hatter and March Hare, Ninette Mordaunt as the Duchess, Bryan Daniels as the King of Hearts (too small a role), Tasha X. Waters belting it out as the Queen of Hearts, Gene Corbin as the Caterpillar and Gryphon, and Julian Singer-Corbin as the Mock Turtle. But this is partly because they have the showier parts and, in some cases, the showier costumes. Everyone else is very fine too.
This show is worth seeing not so much because it's a new musical but because hearing the original text makes you aware again of the verbal wit and coherent absurdities all throughout the story. It's as timeless as the Hatter's watch, which always reads 6:00, the perfect time for a mad tea party.
Alice in Wonderland, A Musical, with text by Lewis Carroll adapted by John Wells and music by Carl Davis, directed by Vernon Poitras, is being performed at the African American Performing Arts Center at San Pedro and Copper in Albuquerque. Through February 1, 2015. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2:00. Tickets are $23 regular, $21 students and seniors (I don't know what age qualifies as senior). Since the theater is in the state fairgrounds, there may be a $5 parking fee if there are other events going on at the fairgrounds. There is free street parking across San Pedro. Tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com.