Theatre review: Wonderland – Manchester Palace Theatre

Monday 24 April marked the day the denizens of Manchester were given Wonderland the musical, a fresh, new and rather quite sinister take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Re-written for a new UK tour, the highly anticipated Wonderland has had people excited for months, me being no exception. I love Alice in Wonderland and every retelling and reimagining always piques my interests so I was ready for it! Me also being a musical theatre gay was instantly living when I heard that Kerry Ellis was playing Alice; she was Elphaba for god’s sake!

*SPOILERS* I must say I was quite surprised at just how dark it was in some parts. The plot in a nutshell is Alice is an adult who’s still fawning over her ex-husband of five years and shirking her responsibilities as a mother. Her daughter, Ellie, who constantly has to deal with how sucky her mother is, tells her to get a grip which leads to them going to Wonderland with the White Rabbit and the nerdy guy, Jack, from downstairs who’s clearly in love with Alice.

Whilst there they find out if the Queen of Hearts cuts their heads off, or if they voluntarily choose to be decapitated, they have to stay in Wonderland forever (which totally sounds like an assisted suicide metaphor, if you ask me). Alice initially wants to stay there because her real world life is boring but she, Ellie and Jack get makeovers after they go through the Looking Glass which brings out the side of them they choose to hide; Ellie becomes a sarcastic, snarky child, Jack becomes a total stud-muffin and Alice, when she eventually goes through, becomes… a teacher.

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Ellie convinces the Mad Hatter to also go through the Looking Glass. She becomes a total badass and enslaves the inhabitants of Wonderland in her hat factory, commits to overthrow the Queen of Hearts and reign supreme. In short, shit goes down.

The show was great! I really enjoyed it! Wonderland looked gorgeous and the staging and sets really did a perfect job of setting the scene. And I just have to scream out my adoration for the costume designer Grace Smart, because the Mad Hatter’s badass outfit is literally everything I’m now living. She looked incredible! She was cinched to the gods and my edges were SNATCHED! Natalie McQueen played the gender-flipped Mad Hatter and she KILLED it! I spent her musical numbers looking for my wig because she scalped me with her performance. Natalie was utterly brilliant! Unequivocal MVP – right there! *insert Alexis Mateo gif* BAM!

My other stand-out performance was Stephen Webb who played Jack, the weedy guy who loved Alice (lord knows why though because before she went through the Looking Glass she was a total fanny). After Jack stepped through he emerged as absolute dad goals and that’s when I recognised who he was. He played Tommy D’Vito in Jersey Boys when I saw it and I was shocked at how much I instantly fancied him in Wonderland because I’d never thought much of him before. Also aside from being super hot his musical numbers involved an entourage of four more guys. It was super 90’s boyband-y and so N*Sync I got my entire life!

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I have to give snaps to Benjamin McMillan. He was Tweedle Dum (or Tweedle Dee) and one of Jack’s band, and he was talk and had floppy hair and was completely beautiful and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Not just because of my thirst, but because he was getting it and giving it to me. Please love me. I’m very lonely.

Kerry was a perfect grown-up Alice, especially when she became an actual adult and gained some self-respect. I was very impressed, and those long notes – hold me! Naomi Morris, Alice’s daughter Ellie, was hilarious and brilliant! Before and after the Looking Glass she played her role flawlessly – her reactions, her mannerisms, her everything was fabulous.

My only disappointment was the Queen of Hearts. Wendi Peters played her perfectly, but the Queen just wasn’t in the story much. She came onto the stage, sang a song about cutting people’s heads off, ate a jam tart, and then exited stage right. She did the same in the second act and the finale was pretty much, “Okay cool, you’ve talked some nonsense, you can leave Wonderland.”

Um, excuse me: you’re the Queen of Hearts! Put your foot down, be evil and vindictive and a tyrant. I feel like the rest of the characters took up unnecessary time and musical numbers (looking at you White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat and Caterpillar) which should have been used to make the Queen an actual danger instead of just something the other characters casually talk about. The threat of having your head cut off was treated in such a blasé manner I didn’t care and was like, “Get on with it.” It seemed like the real villain was the Mad Hatter and it shouldn’t have been.

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In conclusion, Wonderland was wonderful and a hugely enjoyable musical, full of high energy and stirring numbers and gorgeous visuals! I loved being in the theatre because the atmosphere the show created was truly magical!

Wonderland is at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Sunday 30 April, and if you love Alice you’ll love the show! Tickets are available on the ATG website.