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Sunday, 9 April 2017

REVIEW: Wonderland at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking


Wonderland rolls into Woking as part of a 30 venue UK tour following successful runs in Tampa, Texas and Tokyo and is a modern re-working of the Lewis Carroll stories Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.

A large, impressive cast are led by household names Kerry Ellis, Wendi Peters and Dave Willets and the ensemble dazzle throughout in a variety of roles. Vocally and musically, this was a very strong production with the original music largely feeling very fresh. 

Natalie McQueen shone as the Mad Hatter, belting her way through musical highlights such as I Will Prevail and This Is Who I Am with ease. Advice From A Caterpillar was effortlessly cool with Kayi Ushe beautifully supported by his Legs as he slinked across the stage in a mesmerising scene early on. 

Wendi Peters, known to many for her role in Coronation Street was superb as the Queen of Hearts and provided a real injection of brass and power at the end of act one. The stage lit up with her on it and it was a shame the character felt a little underused. Dave Willets was a charming and affectionate White Rabbit offering a calm and warm performance amongst the chaos and colour of Carroll’s stories.

Kerry Ellis proved why she is so highly regarded with a perfect vocal performance as Alice; a struggling single mother desperate for more fun in her life. It was a pity that the character of Alice didn’t excite and command as much as Ellis’s vocal did. There was little change to her once she had gone through the Looking Glass and the performance felt rather two dimensional. 

While clearly a skilled performer, Naomi Morris’ Ellie veered too far on the side of annoying and was far too unlikeable. As a result it was hard to invest in these central characters and really care about the story. Similarly, loveable neighbour and all-round good guy Jack lost some of his charm once he breezed through the Looking Glass transformed into a boyband crooning hunk. It was only then that Alice noticed him which isn’t the most uplifting and inspiring of love stories to tell.

It was a real shame the characters and relationships weren’t stronger and better
developed as the cast were very talented and it was great to see a new production be given such support in such a large UK tour. It was a testament to the cast and creative team that they were able to create a solid performance from a relatively weak and forgettable script. The direction was very simple and seemed far too limited and restrictive, never fully embracing the themes and world of Alice in Wonderland. For a place where seemingly anything goes, it would have been nice for this show to really let loose and feel wilder. 

There were encouraging signs that Wonderland could become the hit that this cast and the colour of Carroll’s stories deserve but this production left me feeling there was more developing to be done.

Review by Andy Edmeads 

Rating: ★★

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