Frank Wildhorn's Wonderland opened on the Derry stage last night at the Millennium Forum. A modern adaptation of Alice In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, this musical really does take you on a very personal journey.
This contemporary retelling of the story presents single Mum Alice unhappy in the contemporary world. It's her 40th birthday and she receives a letter from her ex-husband that he is to be remarried. On the same day she gets fired from her job. A White Rabbit appears to her and her daughter Ellie. Their neighbour Jack is also in the scene and then they all go off with the Rabbit. In Wonderland Alice, Ellie and Jack meet up with the Mad Hatter, Caterpillar, Dormouse, March Hare and the Queen of Hearts.
Prior to going to the show last night myself and a friend went for a glass of wine to a local bar. There we were discussing life in general and how it's up to us to take charge of our lives and make them the best that we can. We were going quite deep into conversation about the importance at our age regarding being happy with ourselves and 'who' we are. Life doesn't last forever and so it's of utmost importance to believe in ourselves and do what makes us happy here and now.
As we sat together throughout Wonderland, without saying a word, we were both getting goosebumps unknown to the other. We both were experiencing very real emotions and tears were near. As the show ended I really did feel like crying. As my friend said to me, "I really want to cry", I realised this had indeed affected her to the extent it had me.
Wonderland takes us on a musical journey from which no one is left out. It's a journey we all travel in life. The journey to be ourselves: to be 'me'. Alice is unhappy in her life. She was forced to live a life to suit other people and put the real 'her' in a pocket. She lived her life to please others and ended up not pleasing herself and alone and unhappy. I'm sure not one person in the auditorium last night has not, or does not know someone who has done just this in life.
Through the music and the song, Alice and the cast of Wonderland take us on a journey of language which encourages us to believe in the power of magic and in the power of change. We all have the power to change who we are and what we want to be. It's believing in our ability to do just that which is difficult. Alice and friends showed us all last night that it really is possible to be who you really are. Alice had to go through the 'looking glass' to find her self-belief.
The only downside of last night was that Wendi Petters, the Queen of Hearts wasn't more on the stage. Peters voice reached pitches I never knew existed. She never faltered in her singing (and that was singing) but Wendi, I want those shoes!!
The White Rabbit, Dave Willetts, Dormouse, Cat and all the gang were equally outstanding last night. For an opening night this really was a flawless performance.
Each and every character in Wonderland had a moral message for us all. Each and every song in Wonderland had wonderful advice for us all. Each and every element of Wonderland just blew me away.
I read a few reviews of this show prior to last nights performance and some were rather mediocre. One said it lacked substance. Another that it lacked great music. I've no idea where these folk were from, or if they even saw this show. This show is a hive of magic, music, song, language, and of course it has the happy ever after love story.
As I traveled home last night I really was on an emotional high (and yes I really did only have that one wine early in the night). I was still experiencing goosebumps as I got in home. I was still emotional as I went to bed.
Perhaps it's my line of work, continually encouraging children to believe in themselves and in who they are. I encourage them to believe in what they think and to always trust their own thoughts. My wee kids club The WRITE STUFF Kids Club is all about creative writing and reading but at it's core is the fundamental belief in the 'self'. Wonderland showcased it all last night.
Wonderland will take you on a magical journey and show you that it really is possible to be the real you.
The song titles alone are inspirational: I will Prevail; I am my own Invention; Once more I can see; Together......
Everyone needs to go though the Looking Glass in life. Finding your looking glass should be top of your list. My Looking Glass was university 10 years ago. It was then that I really found the real me. It was then that I really found what I wanted to do. It was then that I started to believe in 'me'. What's your Looking Glass? Go through it soon before life passes you by. Alice did, so should you.
The New York Times said of this show: An Inspirational Musical. My overall thoughts: Inspirational with every word, this is the best show I've ever seen on the Derry stage.
Wonderland is showing at Millennium Forum Derry until this Saturday night. This really is mindblowing. Go see it.