Happy Unbirthday David Del Tredici!

The composer’s 75th un-Unbirthday was actually last March 16th, but it was celebrated in style on March 25 and 26, according to Operation Brooklyn, with a performance of “Haddocks’ Eyes” at the Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, starring Amy van Roekel and with Del Tredici playing piano. The show was presented by Opera on Tap (“born as a barroom presenter of arias” according to the Times,) and American Opera Projects.

David Del Tredici

Is the White Knight, who sings Alice his famous nonsense song in “Through the Looking-Glass,” really a caricature of Lewis Carroll himself? Like the knight, Carroll had shaggy hair, mild blue eyes, a kind and gentle face. Like the knight, his mind seemed to function best when it saw things in topsy-turvy fashion. . . Of all the characters Alice meets on her two dream adventures, only the White Knight seems to be genuinely fond of her and to offer her special assistance… His melancholy farewell may be Carroll’s farewell to Alice when she grew up (became a queen) and abandoned him. With this idea in hand, David Del Tredici’s uses his post-Romantic musical style to bring a touchingly personal dimension to the Alice universe. “Haddocks’ Eyes” was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and premiered at Alice Tully Hall in 1986.

Then there were other “Alician” pieces on offer, described by the New York Times:

The programs veer off into very different territory with “Through the Peeping Glass,” described as a “burlesque/cirque” performance by the burlesque artist Rita MenWeep. Sunday’s show includes excerpts from the opera “Dreaming of Wonderland” by Manly Romero and on Monday with portions of Susan Botti’s opera “Wonderglass.”

That’s apparently not the first time Rita MenWeep has done Carrollian Burlesque at the Galapagos Art Space. We found this youtube featuring MenWeep from the gallarey’s Alice in Wonderland-themed 2010 Spring Ball, called “Dances of Vice.”

Thought-provoking article in Prospect Magazine by Richard Jenkyns

Prof. Richard Jenkyns

Prof. Richard Jenkyns

Issue 187 of Prospect Magazine contains a good article on the influence of the Alice books written by Richard Jenkyns, professor of Classics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. The article is free to read on Prospect’s website.

Jenkyns makes several interesting points that may get LCSNA members thinking and, perhaps, arguing.

Here are some extracts:

Previously, most books for children had been either educational or improving; the only purpose of Alice is to give pleasure. We have grown so used to bunnies in blue jackets with brass buttons that it is hard to remember how comparatively recent such things are…

Dreams are a solipsist’s kingdom: nothing exists in them except the dreamer. It is appropriate, therefore, that the people and creatures that Alice meets in Wonderland lack roundedness and solidity…

Figures like the Red and White Queens and the White Knight come with distinct personalities independent of Alice’s imagining. It makes sense of a kind for there to be speculation in the looking-glass world about whether someone else is dreaming of Alice; to pose that question in Wonderland would be preposterous.

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.

Batman Through the Looking Glass

Here’s the cover for Issue #3 of the new comic series The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which was launched after the success of the Cartoon Network show Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Bob Kass writes to us: “The cover shows the Alice in Wonderland characters but the story has the Looking Glass characters. In the story, the Mirror Master, who is a classic Flash villain, sends Batman and the Flash to the Looking Glass World with the help of Mad Hatter. The story includes the White Knight, the Tweedles, Jabbewock, Humpty Dumpty, etc. There is a clever touch where the Flash’s costume insignia reverses in the Looking Glass world.”

Johanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth Reading is happy that this issue “take[s] on some of the whimsy and charm that make its cartoon counterpart so much fun to watch.”

Issue #3, for example, takes the trendy inspiration of Alice in Wonderland to remind us of the Batman villain The Mad Hatter, who’s mind-controlling the original Flash because “he’s one of the few heroes with the good taste to wear a hat.” That kind of logic, internally consistent to the characters but ridiculously silly to the reader, adds to the enjoyment of this comic.

"The Mad Hatter as he appears in Lego Batman: The Videogame." -Wikipedia

Batman’s most famous enemy The Joker has been identified with Carroll’s character before (recently in The Joker’s Asylum II, June 16th, 2010.) But apparently The Mad Hatter is himself also a Batman villain, originally appearing in Batman #49 in October 1948 (according to the Wikipedia.) “Like other Batman villains, the Mad Hatter has become a darker character over the years. The Mad Hatter is depicted as a scientist who invents and uses technological mind-controlling devices to influence and manipulate the minds of his victims, believing that ‘the mind is the weakest part of a person’. He is well-known for sporting a green-coloured hat which is usually slightly over-sized as it houses his mobile mind-manipulating devices.” So that’s why the Hatter wears a big hat!

Screening of McLeod's Alice in Wonderland (1933) in Vancouver this Weekend

Do we have any readers in Vancouver? Near Vancouver? I don’t know, but if we do they should go to Vancity Theatre – the Vancouver International Film Center – on Sunday to see a rare screening of Norman Z. McLeod’s Alice in Wonderland from 1933. See Cary Grant as you have never seen him before – totally concealed inside a giant mock turtle suit!

From the Vancity Theatre website:

“Extravagant all-star assaults on the work of Lewis Carroll – like the forthcoming Tim Burton-Johnny Depp movie – are nothing new, as this rare item from the vaults of Paramount Pictures goes to show. With a screenplay by Joseph L Mankiewicz (All About Eve) and designed by William Cameron Menzies (Gone with the Wind), this has considerable pedigree even before you check out the cast list.

“But what a cast it is! WC Fields steals the show as Humpty Dumpty, but underneath splendid (if uncomfortable-looking) costumes you may also recognize the voices of Cary Grant as the mock turtle, Edward Everett Horton as the Mad Hatter, Gary Cooper is the White Knight, and Edna May Oliver as the Red Queen. Curiouser and curiouser, it has never been released on DVD or VHS.”

Alice in Wonderland, Sunday, January 10th, 2.30pm. All ages.
Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6B 3M7