Original Broadway Cast


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The musical Wonderland, which opened on Broadway on April 17, 2011, is the umpteenth screen or stage adaptation of Lewis Carroll's children's books Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, not that Carroll's name appears anywhere in the credits; when your work goes out of copyright and people don't have to pay you anymore, they tend to forget you ever did it. But the original author probably wouldn't have minded not being associated with this updating, in which his fantasy world has been located beneath the sub-basement of an apartment building in present-day Queens, New York, and Alice is a single mother. The dominant presence in the show, and even more on the cast album, is composer Frank Wildhorn. Wildhorn has gone on record wanting to create theater music that would rule the pop charts as it did in the middle of the 20th century, but he has always been a follower rather than a leader, and in his music for Wonderland, he often seems to be re-creating the pop singles chart of about 1999, as if this show has been sitting in a drawer for over a decade. For example, the big rhythm number early on is "Go with the Flow," which is a straight knock-off of Santana's "Smooth." On "One Knight" and "Together," Wildhorn seems to be trying to come up with boy band ballad material for *NSync. The short-lived, neo-swing trend of the ‘90s is evoked with "The Mad Hatter." And "I Will Prevail" sounds like something Bon Jovi might want to consider, or perhaps Meat Loaf. The inevitable "Off with Their Heads," on the other hand, is a pastiche of a '30s soft-shoe number. Of course, the real comfort zone for the songwriter whose one big hit was Whitney Houston's "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" is the adult contemporary ballad, and Wildhorn has come up with a couple in "Once More I Can See" and "Heroes" (though the latter also could have fallen off a Jewel album, completing the ‘90s nostalgia trip). It might seem that these different pop styles, in addition to being out of date, wouldn't necessarily work together in the same score, and they don't, really. The performers do their best to realize Wildhorn's vision; it's the vision itself that is dim. [Wonderland closed on Broadway on May 15, 2011, after 33 performances.]

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