I remember my first play vividly: The Lion King. I must have only been five or six at the time, but the intricate costumes, catchy songs, the animals from one of my favourite films brought to life, right in front of my eyes. I caught the bug- any opportunity there was, I took. I think I saw The Lion King three times in the next few years. Then, was Mamma Mia. A gift to my mom for her birthday, if I recall correctly and she brought me along. I sang the songs for months afterwards-Wicked followed a few years later. Fast forward a few years, and in addition to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, I was given the opportunity to see Alice in Wonderland at the Shaw Festival this past weekend.
Adapted for the stage by Peter Hinton, The Shaw’s take on Alice in Wonderland was fresh, imaginative and visually stunning. The many challenges that Lewis Carroll’s whimsical story were all met with innovative and creative solutions: putting the ‘wonder’ in wonderland, if I may, for adults and children alike.
This version of the classic tale began with a dreamy story by a family friend whilst on a boat ride in the English countryside about a girl named Alice, which captivates the real, curious ten-year-old Alice (TARA ROSLING). You did read that correctly, a boat ride. A combination of lighting, audio, video technology and a seemingly-magical boat that glides along the stage floor sets the scene for an extraordinary adventure.
Throughout the play, technology is intelligently used- bringing the smirking cheshire cat to life with all of its mischievous disappearing and reappearing, allowing Alice to shrink down to no more than three inches and most spectacularly, allowing her to fall down the rabbit hole.
The stellar orchestra, consisting of Anna Redekop, Alex Grant, Jeewon Kim, Joseph Tritt, Shawn Moody and Tom Skublics, were able to bring to life this whimsical world created, and truly sold the original songs as a part of the world of Wonderland.
Costume designer William Schmuck shines; with the marriage of human and animal forms for the majority of the characters – vibrant colours and unusual textures melted together to create whimsical characters with stunning silhouettes from the gryphon on stilts, the frog footmen and maids, the lobsters… Each creature offers its own wondrous look. In addition, Alice’s costume, a grey-like blue, manages to be both traditional and modern simultaneously – a stunning feat.
However, arguably one of the most significant contribution to Alice in Wonderland’s success is the extremely talented cast, far too numerous to name individually, especially with all the roles each took on: bringing to life the songs, the characters and the comedy of the play.
The Shaw Festival’s Alice in Wonderland, which plays at the Festival Theatre until October 16th, 2016 is a must see for families and adult lovers of the original story alike. It promises a funny, whimsical journey that will captive the inner child in all of us.
A special thanks to fellow blogger, Maple Mouse Mama for the tickets. Be sure to check out her blog here!