Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Alice" at Wheelock finds balance for young and old audiences

Metro Boston - 10/22/2014  -Nick Dussault
The Wheelock Family Theatre kicks off its 34th season with “Alice,” a new musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic books “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice through the Looking Glass.”
Written and directed by 24-year-old Stoneham native (and frequent Wheelock performer) Andrew Barbato, “Alice” takes the audience on a fun trip down the rabbit hole for a coming-of-age tale that’s sure to resonate with people of all ages. Barbato's script finds a sweet spot somewhere between fairy tale and the acid trippiness of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit."
Rife with humor (some of which goes right over the younger heads in the crowd), “Alice” also boasts some not-so-subtle messages including the belief that nothing is impossible, the importance of what you do for others, and the high price of perfectionism.      
While Barbato’s enthusiasm for the story is clear from the start, his narrative sometimes loses its way. In Act I you might find yourself wondering who’s who and how you got to certain places. But stick with it. By the time you get to the Mad Hatter’s tea in Act 2, everything makes sense, except, of course, the logic of the locals at the tea.
Though the music, written by Lesley DeSantis, isn’t something you’ll be singing on your way out the door, it is warm, touching and perfectly appropriate for this piece. Alice (a vocally stunning Maritza Bostic) and the Queen of Hearts (the always-impressive Leigh Barrett) share the show’s finest musical moment, a lump-in-your-throat rendition of “Paint the Roses Red.”
Aubin Wise also delivers a standout performance as the White Queen, while Alexandra Nader shines in her stellar turn as the Cook. Russell Garrett finds the perfect amount of mad for the Mad Hatter and Jenna Lea Scott shines as the Frog Footman.
Matthew Lazure’s set (which feels like it could work in a Tim Burton film) is the perfect backdrop for “Alice” while Scott Clyve’s lighting design greatly enhances the magic of Barbato’s impressive debut production.


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