TimeOut’s Review of Wonderland Musical is a fantastic Jabberwocky parody

Art by John Turner of Creative Goods Design & Supply, for Wonderland, in a New York Times special feature "Adventures in Communicating a New Alice"

The reviews have been coming in all weekend for Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland: A New Broadway Musical (the musical formerly known as Wonderland: A New Musical and Wonderland: A New Musical Adventure.) Wonderland‘s website quotes the New York Times: “INSPIRATIONAL, FANCIFUL & GROOVY.” The Times’ review by Charles Isherwood was actually a bit more nuanced, but I suppose “…the desire to create a traditional narrative arc from the unruly dreamscape of Carroll’s original results in a convoluted story line pitting the good guys against the bad…” doesn’t fit on a marquee. Neither would “‘Wonderland’ transforms Alice’s surreal wanderings into a contemporary parable about reconnecting with your inner child and other watery truisms of the self-help industrial complex.” Kudos to Isherwood for pointing out that Alice’s “increasing exasperation to find her way home” is more Oz’s Dorothy than Alice: “a preoccupation that didn’t seem particularly urgent to the polite, spirited youngster in Carroll’s original.”

However, Adam Feldman’s proper panning for TimeOut New York was a spectacular parody of the Jabberwocky. It’s so good, I can’t resist posting it here in full:

’Tis Wildhorn, and the hapless cast
Does direly gambol on the stage.
All flimsy is the plot half-assed,
Not right for any age.

Beware of Wonderland, I warn!
The jokes that cloy, the scenes that flop!
Beware the humdrum words and scorn
The spurious, bland rock-pop!

The book’s a torpid bore in which
A newly single mom (Dacal)
Gets tested, see, by a journey she
Begins with quite a fall.

This modern Alice lands (ker-splat!)
In Wonderland, and banters some
With rabbit, caterpillar, cat
(In order: twee, dull, dumb).

She also meets a huffish Queen
Of Hearts (well-costumed Mason), and
A lady Hatter (Shindle, keen)
Who wishes to command.

These cartoon Carroll singers screech
The busy Wildhorn-Murphy score,
Which oft suggests a loud, high reach
At songs you’ve heard before.

A White Knight (Ritchie) does enact
A boy-band number that’s a lark—
But then comes the worst second act
Since poor Turn Off the Dark.

Act Two: Boo! Boo! And through and through
This Wonderland’s both slick and slack.
Dacal et al. can only do
So much to save the wrack.

And why has Wonderland been made?
Answer me that, director Boyd!
From captious gays to children dazed:
By all it’s unenjoyed.

’Tis Wildhorn, and the hapless cast
Does direly gambol on the stage.
All flimsy is the plot half-assed,
Not right for any age.

Thank you, Mr Feldman. If the LCSNA gave out an annual award for Jabberwocky parody (and we should, dash it all!) this would be a heavy favorite.

I’d also like to take this moment to mention that the actor playing the R&B-singing Caterpillar has an amazing name: E. Clayton Cornelious.

That Guy With Glasses reviews Disney's Alice in Wonderland

There will of course be reviews of the new Tim Burton Disney Movie (knocked down by titans, dragons, and Tyler Perry, but still 5 in the box office in its fifth week, and having made already $300 million dollars!) in the forthcoming Knight Letter. Meantime, several LCSNA members have been forwarding this video around, seconding this reviewer’s sage insight:

Criticizing the Critics, & futterwacking around the Alice Movie Paradox

[Warning! Spoiler alert! It was all a dream!]

When Lewis Carroll published a few thousand copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, with no hype or buzz, it received some mixed reviews. That’s one of the few things Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland has in common with Carroll’s original stories. The critics were out this week, and occasionally perceptive. As of this morning, the “top critics” that Rotten Tomatoes tracks average at about 59% (between rotten tomato and ripe tomato), with the general masses giving it about 53%. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, one of my favorite critics to disagree with, had some interesting insight into the Alice Paradox in movies:

Dark and sometimes grim, this isn’t your great-grandmother’s Alice or that of Uncle Walt, who was disappointed with the 1951 Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland.” “Alice has no character,” said a writer who worked on that project. “She merely plays straight man to a cast of screwball comics.” Of course the character of Carroll’s original Alice is evident in each outrageous creation she dreams up in “Wonderland” and in the sequel, “Through the Looking-Glass,” which means that she’s a straight man to her own imagination. (She is Wonderland.) Here she mostly serves as a foil for the top biller Johnny Depp, who (yes, yes) plays the Mad Hatter, and Mr. Burton’s bright and leaden whimsies.

Her conclusion, however, is vague and baffling:

This isn’t an impossible story to translate to the screen, as the Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer showed with “Alice” (1988), where the divide between reality and fantasy blurs as it does in dreams. It’s just hard to know why Mr. Burton, who doesn’t seem much interested in Alice, bothered.

The great Roger Ebert, at the Chicago Sun-Times, admits he didn’t care for the books growing up, which possibly explains some of his strange tangents:

This has never been a children’s story. There’s even a little sadism embedded in Carroll’s fantasy. It reminds me of uncles who tickle their nieces until they scream. “Alice” plays better as an adult hallucination, which is how Burton rather brilliantly interprets it until a pointless third act flies off the rails. It was a wise idea by Burton and his screenwriter, Linda Woolverton, to devise a reason that Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now a grown girl in her late teens, revisiting a Wonderland that remains much the same, as fantasy worlds must always do.

[…]
Burton shows us Wonderland as a perturbing place where the inhabitants exist for little apparent reason other than to be peculiar and obnoxious. Do they reproduce? Most species seem to have only one member, as if nature quit while she was ahead.
How could he not develop that shocking exposée? Who was the Duchess’s baby daddy? Is there a Mrs. Mock Turtle!? I wish Carroll was around to explain the laws of dream procreation.
One more quote, I’ll give Elizabeth Weizman of New York Daily News my highly coveted Saying Nothing Award:

“Frabjous” may be a word Carroll invented, but Burton knows just what it means, at least in his own mind. He’s clearly excited to invite us inside, and as long as you’re open to so much muchness, you’ll be very glad he did.

This parsing of critics possibly to be continued… In the meantime, I have several questions:

-How come no one has discussed the influence of Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth I from BBC’s “Blackadder II” (1986) on Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen?

-Why was the Dodgson-esque figure named Charles at the beginning Alice’s dead father? What?
-Did the bizarre Chinese trade-route plot-line at the finale, which was guided on by the blue butterfly (née Caterpillar), have anything to do with opium (i.e., the possible contents of the Caterpillar’s pipe)? I know it was 2am and I had a headache from two hours of drinking wine in an IMAX with 3D glasses, but I think I may be onto a possible explanation for the otherwise unexplainable China thing.