BWW Review: ALICE IN WONDERLAND sparkles at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati
Most of us are familiar with the classic tale of "Alice in Wonderland," but Ensemble Theatre brings the story up to the present with a fresh look at Alice's journey down the rabbit hole.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati presents "Alice in Wonderland," running now through Dec. 30. With a book by Joseph McDonough, a score by David Kisor and direction by Artistic Director Lynn Meyers, audiences can rest assured that it will be a wonderful hour and forty minutes in Wonderland.
From the top of the show, the actors fill the stage with such contagious energy. Recognizable characters such as the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit and Cheshire Cat come onstage to set the scene before modern-day Alice is revealed in adorable dungarees and converse instead of her traditional and outdated dress and apron. This, as well as the nod to many pop culture references immediately brings the audience up to the period in which the show takes place.
Deej Ragusa plays the curious titular character. Her voice is showcased perfectly in Kisor's contemporary score, and her rebellious charm fits this version of Alice to a T. Alice's first solo in the show "Falling" happens as she tumbles through the rabbit hole. The smooth rhythm of the song mixed with Ragusa's contemporary belt makes the tune belong on a cast album.
The differentiation in genres of music throughout the score was fascinating. Each character had a specific style to match their personality. For example, The Cheshire Cat played by Brooke Steele, sang "Cat's Got Your Tounge," which has a fun, R&B vibe - perfect for a sly kitty! Steele's portrayal of The Cheshire Cat was a favorite of the night. Her body language in combination with her brilliant acting and vocal ability made her a definite standout.
Another tremendous standout was Deb G. Girdler who played Mother/Queen of Hearts/King. While the original version of "Alice in Wonderland" leads the audience to believe that the Queen of Hearts is manipulative of the King, in ETC's production he is literally her puppet. This added a great deal to the dynamic between not only the royal couple, but it shows the Queen of Hearts' power if she is able to control even the King's every move. Girdler is a terrific comedic actor, but then released a powerhouse belt late in the show that was jaw-dropping
'Tis the season for quality time, and this show is perfect for people of all ages. Whether you want an outing for you and your young ones or a fun show date with the grandparents, there is something in it for everyone.
Ensemble Theatre is even throwing two "Ensemble Tea Parties" on Thursday, Dec. 27 and Friday, Dec. 28 from 5:00-6:30 before the evening performances (Tickets for the performance are sold separately).