Twenty years after its first outing at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, Paul Boyd’s colourful helter-skelter ride down a rabbit hole into Wonderland returns with enough energy to light a forest of Christmas trees.
Alice: The Musical celebrates Boyd as a natural storyteller of imagination and invention – and one with an eye for topicality.
Adam Dougal’s Tweedledee and Rea Campbell-Hill’s Tweedledum spoof immersive theatre and throughout are subtle, satirical allusions to an imminent, equally incongruous journey through the looking glass: Brexit.
Performances are as clever, immediate and bright as Stuart Marshall’s constantly evolving sets. Gillian Lennox and Erin Charteris’ costumes adroitly blend Golden Age Hollywood and pantomime excess with John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s original.
Ruby Campbell’s authentic, Julie Andrews-accented Alice is a strongly sung and sympathetic linchpin. Charlotte McCurry’s slinky Cheshire Cat moves between dual roles as narrator and participant with insinuating feline grace. Christina Nelson’s buck-toothed White Rabbit is delightfully scatty on stage and in her forays into the auditorium.
Dugdale’s flamboyant show-stealing Caterpillar is the effervescent love child of Carmen Miranda and Lady Gaga. Meanwhile, all operatic pomp and pretence, Allison Harding’s querulous Queen of Hearts is Margaret Thatcher re-imagined by Tim Burton.
Turned up to 11 in the playback, Boyd’s thumping, through-composed prerecorded pop-rock score keeps energy levels in the red albeit occasionally getting in the way of clarity. With a tad less adrenaline and volume, this has the makings of a Christmas treat full of charm, fantasy and fun.