If you don't much care where you want to get to, says the Cheshire Cat, "then it doesn't matter which way you go". "So long as I get somewhere," adds Alice. But getting anywhere takes a long time in Carl Davis's musical Alice in Wonderland, adapted from Lewis Carroll by John Wells.
Far too much of the first half is taken up with Alice shrinking and expanding with repetitive regularity. For despite the excellent central performance of Annalene Beechey as the pinafore-clad Alice, we're all really waiting for the most curious things we ever saw in our lives. When they do appear, the weird characters that inhabit Carroll's wonderland are fabulously colourful creations displaying characteristic tics and charms.
Ruari Murchison and Stephen Snell's costume designs - set against their visually intriguing set of black and white screens and doors on a floor proclaiming the mathematician Carroll's chessboard motif - provoke grins as wide as any Cheshire Cat's. Alice is joined by these fantastic creatures as she wades through a pool of her own tears, before meeting the Duchess and the pig baby, the peppery Cook, and the hysterical Caterpillar ("You are old, Father William").
But it's not until much later - after the Mad Hatter's tea party, when the card gardeners explain their horticultural problem, the flamingos appear, and the playing cards show their hand at the stolen tarts trial, that the production warms up from its rather cool, clinical beginning. The most beguiling scene of all is the Lobster Quadrille in which Alastair Parker turns in a delightfully souped-up Scottish Mock Turtle. Jill Pert (who was in the original cast) makes a squawking diva out of the Queen of Hearts, blasting out Davis's quasi-operatic numbers, while Timothy Kightley is as delightful a Dodo as he is bumbling King of Hearts.
Carl Davis's deft score is packed with playful allusions to Victorian styles. Yet a lot of Carroll's nonsensical whimsy and virtuoso wordplay was probably lost on the young audience, who I suspect, like me, wanted fun as well as adventure.
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