Review – Alice in Wonderland – Little Angel Theatre

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The promise of a puppet version of Alice in Wonderland got me excited a good month before the Little Angel Theater’s production opened in November. Still, due to scheduling (and some sold-out shows), I wasn’t able to actually see it until January. I was excited to see how this classic tale could be told and enhanced through the use of puppets.

The characters – Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter – were lovingly carved and full of personality. I often think the character of a puppet theater company comes out in the creatures they make to tell their shows, and the gang for this show were expressive and beautiful. There were also some great unusual “comedy” creatures, such as a house with legs, a talking bubble/triangle thing, and the disassembled cards (each with the various parts that added together to be a human – one with a head, one with arms, one with legs), that really added to the air of surrealism and unreality that make Alice such fun.

The performance took advantage of a variety of tricks to tell the unusual aspects of the story. The cards used actual paint to recolor the Queen’s roses – a literalness that could only work when the roses in question were made of paper- but Alice herself changed sizes not just through the use of different puppets, but through a wonderful shadowplay that used the trick of getting closer or further from the light to get larger and smaller. (The puppeteer in this case took the place of the puppet, but I am willing to forgive.) There was a bit with teacups in flowers that I’m pretty sure wasn’t in the original but was lovely and very appropriate to the feel of the story. And as for a talking key – well, what could be easier? This one even sang and danced in what I found a huge improvement over any bigger budget production.

However, I feel like the production had rather too many songs – it seemed like six or seven but could have been more. The first two I enjoyed, but I started getting yawny as the other ones took up time I thought might have better been applied to narrative. I’m not sure why Little Angel keeps doing shows with songs and shows with intervals; my belief is that Alice would have been better with most of the songs cut and just a straight-through show with no break. Still, it was full of magic and a very enjoyable afternoon – a treat for adults as well as children, and probably the best adaptation of Alice I’ve ever seen. Nice job, guys!

(This review is for the 11AM performance that took place on Saturday, January 8th, 2011. The production continues through January 30th, 2011.)

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