Review: ‘Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure’ at Imagination Stage

Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure follows the timeless Lewis Carroll tale, with all the memorable characters we know and love, but with a Rock ‘n’ Roll twist. Written by Rachel Rockwell and music and lyrics by Michael Mahler, the show is sure to captivate the youngest audience members from the first tune.

The Cheshire Cat shows off his keytar smile to Alice. (L-R: Hasani Allen, Erin Weaver, and Ensemble). Photo by Margot Schulman.

Poor old seven (and a half) year old Alice (played by Erin Weaver) is left behind to practice piano and feeling very bored. She wishes she could be Queen of Everything in order to make everyone invite her places (“Lazy Day”). In her distress and dismay, a mysterious white rabbit (played by Matthew Aldwin McGee) hops by, frantically singing about his lateness to an unnamed event (“Late”). She decides to follow him down the rabbit hole and her adventure in Wonderland begins. Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer, Production Stage Manager Madison Bahr, with music direction by Deborah Jacobson and Sound Designer Chistopher Baine, this interpretation has found numerous creative ways to portray the characters Alice meets in her adventure.

Going through the set-list of catchy rock songs (my favorite being “Feeling Small,” performed beautifully by Erin Weaver), Alice meets the lovable Cheshire Cat (played by Hasani Allen), the wise and funny Caterpillar (played by Aaron Bliden), the very odd Mad Hatter (played by Matthew Alan Ward), the superficial “red” roses Felicite and Bianca (played by Tess Higgings and Daven Ralston), and the very spoiled-yet-fabulous Queen of Hearts (played by Matthew Schleigh).

With colorful and sometimes fierce costumes (Queen of Hearts, I’m talking to you) designed by Ivania Stack, the multitalented cast shined through from beginning to end. From effortlessly singing the highest rock ‘n roll notes, playing more than one musical instrument on stage, going through many costume changes, puppeteering (puppets designed by Matthew Pauli), and following the choreography by Robert Bowen Smith, the cased ensured the audience was sucked into this magical world.

Alice meets the White Rabbit, who is very late! (L-R: Erin Weaver, Matthew Aldwin McGee, Ensemble). Photo by Margot Schulman.

The stage had an Alice in Wonderland feel, with many moving parts to fit to every scene; it also had various touches to give the rock ‘n’ roll vibe. Misha Kachman (Scenic Designer) and Zachary Gilbert (Lighting Designer) collaborated to create a very vivid and colorful feel to the stage. My three favorite things: the concert lights forming a heart that sparked red lights, the Jabberwocky puppet, and that amazing table for the tea party scene.

No matter what your age is, you are never too old for an old school battle of the bands. Which is exactly what happens between Alice and the Jabberwocky (“The Jabberwocky”), and believe me, you will not be disappointed. Follow Alice through this rabbit hole as she fights an electric guitar-playing monster and learns what being courageous feels like.

Best for Ages 5+ and the whole family!

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure plays through Sunday, August 13, 2017, at Imagination Stage – 4908 Auburn Avenue, Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call (301) 280-1660, or purchase them online.

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