By: Cathryn Macey, TRP Reviewer
The humble mixtape is a largely forgotten part of our cultural history. However, in a slightly bizarre but brilliant plot twist, obsolete technology takes centre stage in this new adaptation of the classic children’s novel, Alice in Wonderland.
For many of us, one of life’s greatest joys in the 90’s was making a mix tape.
Whether it was for a friend, family member or the object of your teenage crush, creating a play list was serious business. You’d spend hours trawling your entire tape and CD collection for the perfect combination of songs to record on to a blank cassette tape.
Maybe you’d chuck in the odd song with a subliminal message (“Baby, I love you!”) or maybe you kept it simple and just recorded the songs you both enjoyed. Whatever their content, mixtapes were a masterpiece; a tribute to the feelings and memories shared between creator and recipient.
In TRP’s co-production with Liverpool Playhouse and Stockroom, 15-year-old Alice Lidl (played brilliantly by CITV’s New Worst Witch, Paislie Reid) is desperate to fix an old stereo so she can play a mix tape her late Father made. It features some songs he wrote and performed on his guitar for her, so she is desperate to hear him sing once again.
Whilst frantically attempting to fix the now defunct sound system, she meets a bespectacled white rabbit called Eject (Myles Miller). He mischievously tricks her into diving inside the stereo. This is Alice Lidl’s “Wonderland.”
Sounds crazy, right? Well, it is but it works, and we are quickly transported to a world of captivating chaos. Can Alice survive in this analogue environment or will the weird and wonderful characters she meets inside the stereo stop her from achieving this grief driven goal?
Characters waiting for Alice inside the huge boom box set (designed by Mark Bailey) include Fast Forward and Rewind, the modern day Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, as well as the archetypal villains The Queen of Hearts and The Queen of Clubz. These double-dealing divas (Leanne Jones and Natasha Lewis) are dressed in sequin embellished frocks that would throw shade on even the most outrageous panto dame’s outfit! Christopher Biggins had better watch his back….
Their costume, attitudes and singing voices are loud and proud and the audience love to hate them as they belt out a range of original and feisty songs including “Good Vibes Only” and “Time to Slay”. The songs maybe entirely new but they quickly become familiar, and we are soon tapping our feet to their catchy beats. All songs are performed by an impressive live band with the ensemble cast also grabbing an array of instruments from the cello to the trumpet to join in and bring a fun and fast paced feel to the musical numbers.
As well as great power ballads, the show includes a lot of quick-witted word play and some rap and hip hop inspired tracks. The song that stands out most is The Cheshire Cat’s rap about becoming Alice’s best mate. “Bezzie Bezzie Bez” is a hilarious rap featuring some mad cap lyrics all delivered by the bombastic and bonkers Tomi Ogbaro. My seven-year-old son laughed at his track the most, especially when he earnestly puffed on a pipe full of bubbles.
The show includes aspects of a traditional pantomime and as Alice makes her way through this musical wonderland, she participates in many games and challenges that are familiar to regular panto goers. The production is focused on providing fun for all the family and just like the best pantos, Director Kate Wasserberg creates a performance with jokes and humour that work on many different levels. Whether you are 7 or 70, this show will make you laugh and perhaps even shed a tear at its more poignant moments.
This musical deserves a lot of credit for the way it reboots an old story for a modern audience. The ensemble’s talent, charisma and energy make this show such a delight to experience. Personally, I would absolutely recommend this lively musical with a heartfelt message for children between the ages of 7 and 15 and their grown-ups.
The weather this week may be grey for August but inside The Lyric, things are certainly colourful.
Go and enjoy this flamboyant and humorous performance while you can!