Alice in Wonderland - everyone knows the story of the gal who found herself in an exciting world where flowers sing, cats are bad at directions and caterpillars smoke and that. Imagine that same story but Alice is a 40-year-old divorcee with a pre-teen daughter and is just generally having a right 'mare, when an adorable rabbit man lures them to the wacky Wonderland we all know and love - AND it's a musical!
Well, Tuesday night I was lucky to see the opening of Neil Eckersley's Wonderland* at the Mayflower theatre with the Soton Bloggers crew. Rachael Wooding (of Britain's Got Talent fame) played the role of Alice, who alongside her daughter Ellie and neighbour Jack they find themselves transported to a kooky new world where they are greeted by the energetic and animated ensemble cast of Wonderland. We see classic characters such as the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar and the playing cards. Alice and the gang soon learn about the tyranny of the Queen of Hearts played by the absolute queen herself, Wendi Peters (Corrie favourite who played Cilla Batersby). The gang have to find their way through Wonderland where they come across the Looking Glass, which has the power to change the persona - and outfit - of whomever passes through it. The Mad Hatter decides to pass through it herself which turns out to be not such a good idea...
My favourite parts of the show were:
1) Queen Wendi Peters. Wendi was insaaaaaaane. She rocks a poodle up-do and her characterisation, a more playful and flamboyant take on the evil Queen, was fabulous. I couldn't take my eyes off her and her voice was incredible.
2) The costumes were really, really cool. They're a modern and abstract take on the classic characters and I really want some of the outfits on my body right now. The wardrobe played an important part in the storytelling; when a character passes through the Looking Glass their outfits change to match their new personality, Stars In Their Eyes style. The outfits also personified the animal characters in a non-cliche way.
3) The ensemble songs were my favourites. From the opening, to the welcome to Wonderland number and the cheesey boyband parody song, they were really fun to watch and the cast were so energetic and true to their individual characters.
4) Natalie McQueen. Dayumn. She SLAYS the Mad Hatter role and was definitely the group's favourite character and cast member. She got pipes.
However, there were a few elements that could have been improved for me. Despite the great cast and score, there wasn't a lot of dialogue between the characters that helped set up the motives of the adventure or narrate us through the journey, which left us a little befuddled in the middle. Also I would've loved to see more of the Queen of Hearts. Wendi was so amazing to watch, I just wanted more!
Overall, it's a good show that's very entertaining for the whole family. Wonderland is definitely a musical for you if you're looking for a knees up and a crazy fun time!
If you fancy taking a trip down the rabbit hole yourself, Wonderland is showing at Mayflower theatre in Southampton from Tuesday 18th - Saturday 22nd April, so book your tickets ASAP!
Mayflower Theatre Box Office tel: 02380 711811 or online at mayflower.org.uk. Ovation Restaurant bookings: 02380 711833
Massive thank you to the Mayflower Theatre and Soton Bloggers, it was such a fun night!
* Complimentary tickets
Press photos courtesy of Mayflower Theatre