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Muddy reviews: Wonderland

Upbeat and quirky – and a million miles from the Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton versions of the classic tale

Apparently, Wonderland is “an enchanting musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. You might think this is just the ticket for an Easter holiday outing with the kids. There’s even a bunny!

Or is it? Sure, the bonkers characters are all there. And the magical underland. But gone is the 10-year-old Alice. She’s has been completely restyled for this modern take, and she’s now a single mother with a teenage daughter and an emotionally abusive ex-husband. She lives in a block of high-rise flats and, when we’re introduced, she’s lamenting the fact her ex has just remarried, her car has just been stolen, and she’s lost her job. Oh. And it’s her 40th birthday.

No. This is not, on the face of it, a storyline for kids. And yet, my 10-year-old daughter loved it.

Because the moment Alice, her daughter Ellie and Jack, a shy downstairs neighbour, follow the White Rabbit (a fab Dave Willetts) down in the faulty lift to Wonderland, we are all transported to a magical place. We’re back with that crazy band of much-loved characters: the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, the March Hare, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the Mad Hatter. And the Queen of Hearts – played brilliantly by Wendi Peters, aka Cilla Battersby-Brown in Corrie – who rules over Wonderland. (Flippin heck, that woman can hold a note.)

But this is a story of self-discovery and revelation – not just for the grown-up Alice, but for Ellie, Jack and the Mad Hatter too. The Looking Glass becomes a portal through which these four can pass to reveal their true selves. There shall be no spoilers here, but of course this is an uplifting tale with a happy ending.

It’s upbeat and quirky – and yet a million miles from both the Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton versions of the story. Natalie McQueen’s Mad Hatter was brilliant – she nailed the kooky character and totally made it her own. And boy, she’s another one who can belt out a song.

Ellie, played by Naomi Morris, is wonderful: she has a strong, pure voice, real stage presence and gives a very convincing performance (she was my daughter’s favourite). For me, a special mention must go to Caterpillar played by Kayi Ushe. His scene as the smooth, velvet-voiced Caterpillar is smokin’ hot and the mellow green lights and curling smoke create real atmosphere as he sings to Alice, asking, ‘Who are you?’

Which of course, brings us to Alice. Kerry Ellis is phenomenal, she owns those songs, has a fabulous rapport with Naomi’s Ellie, and Jack, played by a dashing Stephen Webb. Her duet with the Mad Hatter proclaiming ‘This Is Who I Am’ is smashing.

This is a wonderful show. It’s an effusive modern take on an old favourite and ideal for an night out with your girly pals. But, y’know, your kids will enjoy too, for the singing and dancing, and the characters and colour. The age guidance is 6+, but at two hours and 15 minutes, it’s a long show for kids of that age and I probably wouldn’t recommend it for kids much younger than 10.

Wonderland is on until Saturday at the New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, GU21 6GQ, Tel: 0844 871 7645. atgtickets.com

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