Sadly, not all children's theater productions speak to girls, and as the mom of a theater-obsessed little girl, I can only take so many princess-based plays. Thankfully, the Chicago Children's Theatre has flipped that script: Wonderland, Alice's Rock & Roll Adventure, a new family musical created by top Chicago director Rachel Rockwell and music director Michael Mahler, managed to spark the imaginations of my daughter, age 5, and her two friends, ages 6 and 7.
We caught the performance on a Sunday morning at CCT's home at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts (1016 N. Dearborn St.) and Alice's positive, hopeful energy amidst the confusion of life down the rabbit hole stayed with us all, long after the performance had come to a close with a standing ovation.
Rockwell and Mahler take Alice out of her Disney-fied mold and re-imagine the Lewis Carroll classics through a Brit Glam Rock filter. Alice takes it upon herself to understand what it means to be a leader in the ever-evolving world of Wonderland and beyond. Isabelle Roberts and Ariana Burks, who are alternating performances as Alice, represent all the strong young women that are harnessing their curiosity, brains and strength to make their mark on history.
The supporting cast surrounds Alice with both encouraging and challenging zaniness as well as eclectic, live rock. "In our version of the Alice story, Alice is much more of an active protagonist," Rockwell said. "We're talking girl power here, empowering girls, in particular, to boldly discover their true selves. Plus, Michael's score is just awesome. He is borrowing from all sorts of classic rock styles, everything from hints of Heart, Joan Jett, Oingo Boingo and Tenacious D, to Queen and The Beatles. Rock concert meets live theater as Alice reflects the vulnerabilities of all kids, and then confidently finds her own inner voice."
Grab your favorite kid and go see Wonderland, Alice's Rock & Roll Adventure at the Chicago Children's Theatre, on stage now through May 24 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood steps from the Magnificent Mile. Performances are Tuesday at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 10 a.m. and noon; Saturday at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Sunday at 11 a.m. Tickets are $10-$38. Visit chicagochildenstheatre.org or call (872) 222-9555 for tickets and information.
Photo by Charles Osgood