Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles


Also see Sharon's review of Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings

Joseph Lee Bwarie, Christine Lakin and Matt Walker.
There's nothing wrong with a formula if it works. The Troubadour Theater Company (whose mission statement says it "strives to entertain always, educate sometimes, and take itself too seriously never") has built its reputation around melding Shakespeare plays (and holiday offerings) with popular music, with such titles as Fleetwood Macbeth, The Comedy of Aerosmith and Santa Claus is Coming to Motown. This summer, they're offering two shows in repertory, the first being Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland.

Alice is a particularly good fit for the company's rapid-fire, seat-of-their-pants style of presentation. As per usual, modern pop culture references abound (Alice comments that the "Drink Me" potion "tastes like a Fear Factor milkshake") and breaking the fourth wall is not uncommon (one player is admonished, "Sir, please don't break character"). This free-wheeling Troubie attitude works perfectly with Alice in Wonderland, as the bizarre antics going on around Alice just make this particular wonderland curiouser and curiouser. Add in one-hit-wonder songs with lyrics modified to fit the theme (Alice sings the intro to "Funkytown" as "Gotta make a move 'cause the door's the right size for me") and you've got a high-octane fun-fest.

The whole thing might come off looking like the result of a high school improvisation session were it not for one key fact: They're very, very good. The show opens with a four-person group singing a few one-hit-wonder tracks, and it doesn't take long to notice that there's some quality four-part harmony going on here. Read through the bios and you'll find lots of impressive acting and music credits - as well as quite a bit of professional clown experience. The Troubies do a good job of making it look like they're having as much fun as the audience is - but don't mistake silliness for weakness. This sort of spontaneity is professional work.

And the show does stay true to the spirit of the original, if not the text. Particularly noteworthy is the Mad Tea Party scene. While Lewis Carroll certainly could not have anticipated either spray cheese or Silly String - the use of the latter in the guise of the former is a welcome addition to the festivities. Matt Walker's Mad Hatter and Beth Kennedy's March Hare play off each other divinely (with an assist by Jennie Fahn's Doormouse), and the goings-on are suitably frustrating to Christine Lakin's innocent Alice.

Unfortunately, the show isn't quite the same after the intermission. The second act is comprised of three sequences, all of which go on too long, and one of which (where Alice meets up with a pill-popping ... well, you'll just have to see it) may make parents think twice about bringing their little ones. The show tacks on an amusing epilogue, which manages to regain some of the clever spirit of the first act, but one can't help but think the whole thing would have been better as a single-acter, with the act two sequences greatly shortened or omitted altogether. That aside, Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland is a solid Troubadour work, and if it fails to appeal, there's always its repertory partner, OthE.L.O..

Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland continues at the Falcon Theatre in repertory through August 26, 2007. For a complete schedule, see For tickets, call 818-955-8101.

Falcon Theatre presents the Troubadour Theater Company in Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland. Conceived and Directed by Matt Walker. Co-Directed by Joseph Leo Bwarie. (With additional material by Lewis Carroll.) Lighting Designer Jeremy Pivnick; Costume Designer Sharon McGunigle; Sound Designer Robert Arturo Ramirez; Set Consultant Keith Mitchell; Stage Manager Deirdre Murphy; Musical Director Eric Heinly; Producer/Troubie Stage Manger Corey Womack; Puppet Master Matt Scott; Choreographer/Co-Director Joseph Leo Bwarie; Producer/Executive Director Mike Sulprizio; Publicist/Marketing Wes Horton/Beth Kennedy; Directed by Matt Walker.

King of Hearts/Tweedledum - Guilford Adams
Alice Understudy - Gail Bianchi
White Rabbit - Joseph Leo Bwarie
Doormouse - Jennie Fahn
Caterpillar/Rose - Tina Groff
March Hare/Black Dutchess' Voice - Beth Kennedy
Alice - Christine Lakin
Swing - Andy Lopez
Understudy - Matthew Morgan
Tiger-Lily/Cheshire Cat - Lynette Ratham
Daisy/Dorothy - Jen Seifert
Dorchessaisy - Audrey Siegel
Queen of Hearts/Rico - Lisa Valenzuela
Mad Hatter - Matt Walker
Cook/Tweedledee - Dan Waskom

Photo: Wesley Horton

- Sharon Perlmutter

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