Truth be told, the last time an inviting rabbit attempted to lure TorontoStage.com staff down a hole, there was a wee bit too much Schnapps being poured at the company picnic. Policies have since been updated and team outings are strictly alcohol free at this time.
But the nerve of the Shaw Festival to commission playwright Peter Hinton to adapt an indelible part of our cultural consciousness complimented by 19 original songs for enhanced accessibility is about a as surreal as it gets. Don’t even get us started on their deliberate staging at the Festival Theatre surrounded by picturesque forestry and lush countryside.
The end result is a supremely wondrous feeling Alice in Wonderland. One that feels bigger than a Broadway import and a creation that can easily compete with movie house special effects. Curious and bizarre, there’s never a dull moment in this fast moving adventurous puzzle that takes playgoers deep beneath the surface of the earth for unadulterated mirth and merriment.
That’s what most is saying about this technically astonishing staging that has everyone swept away in this Alice’s ‘sea of tears.’ It’s almost as if the exuberant ensemble is on a simple mission: Make theatre magical again. Mind-blowing movement coupled by dreamy imagery helps the iconic fairy tale avoid the impossible task of recreating author Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel that’s landed on the silver screen twice in the past half century.
Hats off to Peter Hinton for directing a deep tunnel of wow but it’s Tara Rosling’s incredibly shrinking and spectacularly expanding Alice that serves as the true signature of the musical production. It’s impossible to imagine a better actor for this role and how she’s able to pull off playing a 10-year old so convincingly is just plain trippy.
Crazed costumes, songs that elevate the spirit and performances that stand the test of time make this summer’s most celebrated family offering.
Playgoers are reminded that there’s no lesson to be learned in this Alice In Wonderland. Maybe so but there’s plenty to cheer about when it comes to bravery, willpower, self-confidence and independence of a young girl’s imagination.
Review by Steven Berketo
ALICE IN WONDERLAND adapted by Peter Hinton April 27 – October 16, 2016 FESTIVAL THEATRE, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario TICKETS $25.00 – $117.00 www.shawfest.com 1-800-511-7429 CAST Tara Rosling, Graeme Somerville, Moya O’Connell, Kyle Blair, Donna Belleville, Ben Sanders, Jennifer Phipps, Guy Bannerman, Neil Barclay, Patty Jamieson, Harveen Sandhu, Kiera Sangster, Jonathan Tan, Jacqueline Thair, Jay Turvey, Kelly Wong DIRECTOR Peter Hinton MUSICAL DIRECTOR Allen Cole CHOREPGRAPHER Denise Clarke SET Eo Sharp COSTUMES William Schmuck LIGHTING Kevin Lamotte PROJECTION DESIGN Beth Kates and Ben Chaisson SOUND John Lott