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Musical Alice needs more work

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Alice in Wonderland, A Musical
Zero stars
Company Carolina at The ArtsCenter
Through Feb. 7

Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll, rank as some of the most charming and quotable pieces of 19th-century English literature, and it is easy to see why one might feel compelled to abridge the strange, complex story and set it to music, and why enthusiastic young players would want to put that simplified musical on the stage. The current production, Alice in Wonderland, A Musical, by the UNC student group Company Carolina, at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, is done with a lot of spirit, but rather less skill than one would desire, and is more likely to satisfy new theater-goers than anyone who has ever seen a play before.

This is the Prince Street Players version, with book, lyrics and music by Jim Eiler and music by Jeanne Bargy, and it picks out some of the best-known bits of the story (from both Alice and Looking Glass) and strings them together as skits punctuated with song and dance. Carroll's glorious language and effervescent nonsense get short shrift, but still the whole thing would be pleasant enough if it were done with more panache—and far greater vocal skills. Only Tara Lowe, as the Caterpillar and the March Hare, had the vocal power to contend with the overly loud three-piece combo. The players' use of (ill-adjusted) body microphones was not only unnecessary in that small room, but worked against vocal clarity. If you do go, sit behind the band if you desire to catch more than one word in 10.

There are some good moments—the oyster scene is cleverly conceived—and several good costumes. Yet throughout the Knave's trial scene, I kept looking for him—and finally realized he was there—dressed as the Nine of Diamonds. Like the Knave's costume, this production needs quite a bit more work.

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