Sunday, June 12, 2016


James Karas

Alice in Wonderland  by Lewis Carroll
adapted and directed by Peter Hinton.
Music be Allen Cole. Set Designer Eo Sharpe,
Costumes by William Schmuck,
Projections by Beth Kates and Ben Chaisson

Tara Rosling, Graeme Somerville, Moya O’Connell
Kyle Blair, Donna Belleville, Ben Sanders,
Jennifer Phipps, Guy Bannerman, Neil Barclay
Elodie Gillett, Patty Jamieson, Kiera Sangster, Jonathan Tan

Continues in repertory at the Festival Theatre,
Niagara-on-the-Lake until October 16, 2016.    

*** (out of five)

The Shaw Festival seems to have spared no expense or effort in its presentation of a musical version of Alice in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s novel has been adapted for the stage and directed by Peter Hinton and there were high expectations for the production.

And indeed it is a most colourful and beautifully designed piece. The costumes by William Schmuck are a sight to behold and with all the wonderful characters that Carroll provides the opportunities are ample. The result is spectacular.

The cast of Alice in Wonderland. Photo by David Cooper.
The set by Eo Sharpe, the projections designed by Beth Kates and Ban Chaisson, from a lake to Alice’s descent into Wonderland and many others are stunning with the lighting design by Kevin LaMotte adding to the sheer spectacle and kaleidoscope of colours.

All of the above add up to the highest and best production values one could wish for in a musical. But production values are not enough to make for a grand evening at the theatre. After about two and a half hours of watching Alice in Wonderland one was tempted to use the b-word as the ultimate impression of the music and text. Not boring but bland.

There are almost one hundred characters on the stage, if I counted them correctly. Many of the actors take three or four roles. The familiar ones all are there. Alice (a very spry and convincing Tara Rosling), White Rabbit (Ben Sanders), the Queen of Hearts (Moya O’Connell), the Mad Hatter (Graeme Somerville), the King of Hearts (Jay Turvey) and the rest. Peter Hinton has added about twenty members of Alice’s family in Oxford as a prologue and epilogue to Carroll’s book without necessarily improving it.

The cast of Alice in Wonderland. Photo by David Cooper.
We are taken through a number of episodes that Alice experiences in Wonderland after she falls through the rabbit hole. As I said they are indeed colourful with impressive theatricality but they are not really entertaining. There are a few laughs but they do not engage us. What is missing is sufficient content.

The music and songs by Allen Cole range from the cute to the banal. I cannot recall a single tune a few hours after the performance.

It is unfortunate that such wonderful production values did not get the music, text and humour to give us a great night at the theatre.


1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more. Despite my initial gasp of awe when the curtain went up, I quickly fell asleep.