A musical journey to Wonderland

More Tea? Alice, Laura Baldwin, as a guest at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Alice in Wonderland

Lichfield Garrick

****

WITH The Lichfield Garrick artistic and musical director, Adrian Jackson, at the helm it's no surprise that the overall setting of this show is very much rooted in musical theatre rather than pantomime.

It is billed as a Christmas Circus Musical and with theatres across the region trying to outdo each other with alternative seasonal outings, it seems the rush to be bigger and better has possibly diminished the fun atmosphere, preferring a more formal level of production.

There are overtones of the big West End shows, Disney, Hollywood musicals, variety and the Circus and although those elements are well-staged and segued it does make for a slightly unfocused production.

Steve Huison of Coronation Street and the film The Full Monty fame plays the White Rabbit and effectively linked Alice's journey through wonderland, although you would not have known it was him under the layers of costume and makeup.

Alice played by newcomer Laura Baldwin has a fantastic Disney quality to her voice and set against some quality arrangements, played live by the excellent Wonderland band, created some spell binding moments through the evening and can be proud of her first professional role.

Alice finds the nothing is as it seems in Wonderland . . .

Alice in Wonderland is directed by Ian Adams who also plays The Caterpillar, The Duchess and the Mad Hatter and for me was the highlight of the show. His vibrant personality, dancing and showmanship added a true Christmas flavour, offering the closest we got on the night to a Panto Dame when appearing as The Duchess during the wonderful Latin American kitchen scene.

Christina Thornton, like many others in the cast, played multiple roles, hers being Alice's Mother, The Cook and The Queen of Hearts.  Being an original member of the cast of Evita and now with a long list of musical credits to her name, proved how much this show relies on elements of musical theatre. Her delivery was assured, mature and confident.

A great part of the staging was the use of a revolving turntable, doubling visually as a circus ring, which delivered an assortment of props and occasionally some of the wonderful young children in the production on to stage in a variety of comical disguises.

The choreography throughout by Julie Paton was of a very high standard ranging from contemporary ballet to a couple of great tap dance routines.

Another high point was the sound. This for me is often a let-down of so many professional touring shows and the in-house Garrick team seemed to have benefitted from having the time to develop a great balance between the orchestra and the vocalists.

Although it is billed as a family show it is a production that clearly caters for a sophisticated theatre audience more so than young children and it would have been nice to see a little more raw comedy to include them at some point.

Make no mistake this is a highly coordinated and professional show with great costumes and staging and it's marvellous to see and hear this level of West End quality out of London. It is also commendable to offer something different to the traditional panto  but other than the inclusion of a tree and few other Christmas props this is a show that would most likely be successful in any month and I guess I was hoping  at this time of the year for a bit more wonder  in wonderland. To 06-01-12.

Jeff Grant 

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