Catchy ‘Wonderland’ Has Beheading Queen, Air Guitar Cat: Review

Natalie Hill, Karen Mason, Kate Loprest and Morgan James in "Wonderland" in New York. The show is on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre. Photographer: Michal Daniel/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via Bloomberg

Alice is grown up in “Wonderland,” a hummable, cheerful Broadway fairy tale best suited to kids and their parents.

While the new musical’s characters are based on Lewis Carroll’s 1865 “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the plot recalls “The Wizard of Oz.” The cast is appealing, the costumes and choreography are inventive and the score, by Frank Wildhorn and Jack Murphy, is easy on the ears.

Adult entertainment it isn’t, notwithstanding a reference to the mad Tea Party and musical snippets of “Gypsy” and other shows.

We meet Alice’s daughter, Chloe, played by Carly Rose Sonenclar, an 11-year-old actress who projects an unnerving confidence suggesting she’d happily succeed Sutton Foster in “Anything Goes.” Chloe’s glum about her folks separating, her new digs with her mom in the New York borough of Queens and the prospect of eating her grandmother’s cream of Brussels-sprout soup.

Harried Alice (Janet Dacal) arrives home from a teaching job in the Bronx to discover a publisher has rejected her children’s novel. She rests on Chloe’s bed and a white rabbit appears (Edward Staudenmayer) to lead her down the service elevator shaft.

Channeling Santana

There Alice encounters a caterpillar (E. Clayton Cornelious) who sings something Lionel Richie might’ve recorded. A Cheshire cat (Jose Llana) channels Carlos Santana and plays air guitar on his tail. A white knight (Darren Ritchie) leads a boy-band parody.

Act II is more action-packed, with the Mad Hatter (Kate Shindle) plying her powers of persuasion to enlist the Queen of Hearts (Karen Mason) to behead Alice and her pals. The queen sings the vaudevillian “Off With Their Heads,” backed by chorines wearing playing-card outfits courtesy of designer Susan Hilferty. And Lewis Carroll himself (Ritchie again) sings a ballad.

Dacal projects an unfussy mom-next-door allure. Alas, her character’s search for the child within doesn’t make sense, as she’s childlike from the outset. What she really needs is a trust fund or better paying job.

Staged by Gregory Boyd, who co-wrote the book with Murphy, “Wonderland” isn’t the most original or coherent musical. But it’s light on its feet, a nice option for kids and at just over two hours, its length is wonderful.

At the Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway. Information: +1-877-250-2929; Rating: **1/2

What the Stars Mean:
****        Excellent
***         Very Good
**          Average
*           Not So Good
(No stars)  Avoid

(Philip Boroff is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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