ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy Rocks the Hard Rock
Check out Alice Is Everywhere’s Updated 2016 ALICE A Steampunk Concert Fantasy review!
There are few things in this world I love as much as the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. One is musical theater. Another is Vegas. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out about ALICE, A Steampunk Concert Fantasy playing at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas!
Lucky for me, Vegas is just a hop, skip and a jump from Los Angeles, so I made plans to go to the very next show. I had no idea what to expect when I bought tickets for ALICE. I knew it was based on the Lewis Carroll books and featured popular rock songs, and that’s it. But I recognized we were in for something special the moment my two friends and I sat down at our table at the Hard Rock club, Vinyl. The fourth seat was occupied by a Southwest Airlines mechanic named Joe who was stunned that we came from out of town. “How do you even know about this show?” he marveled. He stressed that almost everyone in the audience was local. “This is the best kept secret in Vegas!”
As Joe settled in for his third viewing of ALICE, A Steampunk Concert Fantasy, the impressive nine-piece BBR Band struck up the intro and three lovely ladies (who I later learned were guest vocalists) started things off by singing a soothing, lilting original song called Rabbits For Alice. This melodious moment of calm was soon shattered (in a good way!) when the high-energy show began in earnest.
Almost all of the singing is done by Anne Martinez (Alice) and Ashley Fuller (Ecila….get it???), and they are both absolute powerhouses. Fun fact: I had just seen Cameron Mackintosh’s rather lackluster Phantom of the Opera the week before in LA. Phantom starred some stunt casting from The Voice and I swear to you, while I was sitting watching Alice and Ecila duet, I actually thought, “Why couldn’t Phantom have starred these two instead? It would have been so much better!!!” Which makes absolutely no sense, because- spoiler alert- Anne and Ashley are both girls. But that is how entranced I was by their voices. I was especially partial to their renditions of Call Me When You’re Sober and Bad Romance.
The musical arrangements by band leader David Perrico do a masterful job of keeping things unique while still delivering the familiar hooks the audience craves. Perrico also penned the lovely original number that started the show, along with lyricist Naomi Mauro. The entire cast, which totalled eight but felt like more, seemed to be having the time of their lives. Their energy was infectious and paid off in an enthralled and enthusiastic audience. The choreography for the show (by Ryan Kelsey and Claudia Mitria) was extremely tight and ranged from fun group numbers to a jaw-dropping pas de deux by the amazing Kelsey (the Red Knight) and awesome April Leopardi (the Duchess).
I’m sure that right about now my Carrollians are thinking, “Singing and dancing is all well and good, but what the heck do Lady Gaga covers have to do with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? Is this show at all faithful to the books?” I believe that it is. The song choices are inspired, all the more so when you know the books like the back of your hand. I imagine entering Wonderland absolutely feels like falling into a burning Ring of Fire. You better believe that after running themselves silly at the Caucus Race, Alice and the other animals were begging for Mercy. Singing the melancholy Mad World during the Mad Tea Party may seem like an odd choice, until you remember that an unfortunate incident involving Time led the March Hare and the Hatter to be constantly marooned at tea time, and they were none too happy about it. Lastly, if you don’t enjoy a gorgeous Caterpillar (played by Claudia Mitria) enticing Alice to smoke the hookah to a raucous version of Light My Fire, there’s just got to be something wrong with you.
In addition to the befitting musical choices, the performers did a great job of manifesting their characters with little to no dialogue: Adolfo Barreto’s White Rabbit was always twitchy, LeMichael Curry’s Cheshire Cat was always mysterious, and the aforementioned Duchess was intimidating as hell. Alice displayed just the right balance of wonder and sass. White Knight Eric Morgan was an arresting stage presence who did not for one second make me long for the doddering old man from the book. The Red Queen or King is played by a different Las Vegas guest star at each performance, and the crowd went bananas for Jubilee‘s Jonah Wilkins and Zombie Burlesque‘s Enoch Augustus Scott at our show. The scant dialogue in the show includes a voice over of a child paraphrasing text from the books, which is very effective.
Alice herself (Anne Martinez) came up with the concept for ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy and it is clear she is a true aficion of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. I got a chance to speak to her after the show, when she explained how important it was to her to incorporate the spirit of adventure and sense of fun that so many darker updates of Alice lack. She does double duty as a performer and director of the show (Ryan Kelsey co-directs), and she stressed that creative input comes from the entire cast and crew. I took a picture with Anne which I’d love to share with you but unfortunately I can’t because I look like SUCH an Alice fangirl. It is super embarrassing.
So, when can you jet off to Vegas and see ALICE? I wish I knew! The show has gone through several iterations in several different venues, and the run at the Hard Rock just ended. ALICE is currently shopping around for a new home. Hopefully I can update this post soon with info on where you can see a steampunk Alice in Wonderland brought to life in Las Vegas!
Update 9/20/15: I am happy to report that ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy has a new venue! You can experience Steampunk Alice in Wonderland for yourself on October 13 at The Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq.