Rumor has it Frank Wildhorn’s new musical Wonderland: A New Alice is in trouble (like his last four Broadway shows: Dracula, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Jekyll & Hyde, and The Civil War; the man has bad luck in NYC). Michael Riedel (the man who started the barrage of horrid Spider-Man press, but that’s his job (and his muck raking and pot stirring is usually entertaining) so I forgive him) reports that a new director and a script doctor or two are being brought in to try and save the modestly budgeted $10 million show. Apparently, aside from cast and songs, everything is up for change.
The Tampa try-out resulted in mixed reviews (which has happened in every engagement (Dallas and the first Tampa run)), suggesting the show doesn’t know when it wants to be serious, when it wants to be funny, or even how to spend $10 million and make it look better than a high school play. But the music is getting consistently good reviews.
It’s not fair to judge the score off of one song. I’m not pretending to do that. I will say, however, if the rest of the score is as fun, upbeat, and charming as “Through the Looking Glass,” I’ll have to see the show before it gets eaten alive on Broadway.
This is what pop scores should sound like. The song, used in the sizzle reel (I recommend watching just to see how cheap and visually compelling the design is at the same time (the silhouettes are driving me wild)), would not be out of place on Contemporary Hit Radio and Adult Contemporary stations. It sounds like the kind of song that gets nominated for Original Song at the Oscars and then skyrockets up the charts after the Oscar telecast. It’s fun, it’s peppy, and it’s so repetitive (without being tiresome) that you’ll walk away singing it after one listen.
And those horrid sets? I blame Wicked for making really awful knock-off steampunk set pieces cool. Everyone is doing it now and it rarely looks good. Just another reason to hate that show (other than it butchering the source book, putting too much weight on Glinda’s role, not recording the Nessarose song cycle at the beginning of Act II for the soundtrack, putting that awful green Cabbage Patch doll in the opening scene, and out-whoring Disney for the under 12 crowd, among other bad things (unless you love Wicked, which is apparently the more popular opinion)).
My point is this: that song’s a keeper. I’m tempted to hunt down some bootlegs, transcribe the music, and use it in live gigs as a palette cleanser between my original songs. It’s genuinely fun, not ironically so, and for that I thank Mr. Wildhorn.