Alice in Wonderland
A musical by Paul Boyd from the books by Lewis Carroll
A Castle Production
The Castle Theatre, Wellingborough
If you want a Panto this year that doesn't patronise your children, that keeps you entertained and manages to stay true to the age old art of 'telling the story' then you can't go wrong with Alice in Wonderland at The Castle in Wellingborough.
An excellent cast multi-role through 19 characters with ease, almost surprising the audience when only seven performers come out for their curtain call.
The original music by Paul Boyd is very good, and all songs are belted out smoothly. Emma Bispham as the Cheshire Cat deserves a mention for linking the show together with an effortless Jazz style voice that you never tired of hearing. Although I do feel that some songs were added on and perhaps not really necessary, the overall soundtrack worked well.
The director, Simon Wegrzyn, seems relatively young and this production does have a 'young' or 'modern' feel to it. From the rather kitsch set design, through to the physical style, this did feel like an up-to-date version of Alice.
The physical aspects of the show do need to be mentioned. There were some lovely choreographed moments and you could tell that Darren Royston's choreography had an impact. The Caterpillar dance was lively and clever, as was the tap dance in wellies, which was comically brilliant.
The acting also felt lively and energetic. Russell Morton, who played various roles, deserves a mention for a physically committed performance throughout. The whole cast earns praise though for telling the story with such commitment and honesty.
If there were a couple of negatives from me, they were outdone by the success of the show. Yes, the use of face microphones felt unnecessary and almost impeded the performance. However, the music and singing was strong enough to counter this.
It is worth pointing out that this is a very 'wordy' version of Alice - which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, it could make it difficult to grasp for some younger children.
This is debatable, though, as the fact that the play tells the story may be one of its strengths. All children love hearing stories don't they?
So, a highly recommended panto, a lovely night out in Wellingborough for all the family.
"Alice in Wonderland" plays at The Castle Wellingborough until December 31st 2008
Reviewer: John Johnson