Chicago Childrens Theatre’s new production of “Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure” is a brand new, high-energy, rock n’ roll Alice in Wonderland. My critical assistant, who happens to be my almost six-year-old granddaughter Molly, loved it. In fact, as we walked out of the Ruth Page, she asked if there would be autographs, the highest of accolades! Molly gives “Wonderland” 4 BIG Spotlights!
Although Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” was certainly fantastical when it was published, it’s somehow regarded as a bit dated. Rachel Rockwell and Michael Mahler have taken that “Alice” and turned it onto its proverbial ear. This “Wonderland” rocks – classic rock, a bit of metal, a bit of punk, even a ballad or two, all with clever, up-to-date lyrics played and sung – often while dancing – by the most talented bunch of actors/musicians I’ve seen in a while.
The costumes are psychedelic – all clashing/swirling patterns – checks, stripes and polka dots in black, white and gray. To become different characters, the cast donned tops/jackets/hats – sometimes even hats with ears – in bright colors. In contrast, Alice wears a demure blue dress and white apron which transformed into a flirty little blue frock when she fell into Wonderland.
Alice (Ariana D. Burks in the opening night performance) is bored, bored, bored! She doesn’t want to practice scales on the piano, she wants to go somewhere, do something, or at least follow her older sister, Lorena (Lillian Castillo), to the grown-up’s party.
Since she’s so very bored, she just has to follow that pesky White Rabbit (Matt Deitchman) who runs past her piano singing “Late”. Alice ends up in a very strange place, with things that say “Eat me” and “Drink me”. She follows instructions, becoming very, very tall and very, very small. As she follows the White Rabbit, she meets up with a very strange Caterpillar (Jake Mahler), Tweedle Dum (Mahler) and Tweedle Dee (Deitchman), the Cheshire Cat (Andrew Mueller), the Mad Hatter (Matthew Yee), the Dormouse (Jed Feder) and the March Hare (Adam Michaels).
After listening to the Queen of Hearts (Molly Callinan) – dressed in red leather with an extreme red wig – threatening to lop off people’s heads, and trying to play croquet with a stuffed flamingo while the wickets are moving in front of the Queen’s ball, Alice had the nerve to tell her off! Finally, Alice passes the Jabberwock’s test, only to wake up at home!
Children’s reactions to plays are honest and true, so I always watch for their reactions. Molly was totally engrossed! She said she liked the music but wouldn’t pick out her favorite part of “Wonderland”, because she liked it all. She got up on her knees to watch the Red Queen’s croquet game, but then she said she didn’t like her because she was so mean!
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s production of “Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure” runs through May 24th at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, Chicago. Performances are Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.; Wednesday through Friday at 10:00 a.m. and noon; Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Running time is one hour, 20 minutes. Tickets range from $10-$38. Discounted garage parking is available with ticket validation at 1250 N. Dearborn and 1030 N. State. FYI (872) 222-9555 or www.chicagochildrenstheatre.org.
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