The 2009 Ice Factory series starts with A Wonderland, Anonymous Rock Ensemble’s adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic. In this brooding rock version, Alice (Janelle Lannan) is not a girl in a blue dress, but a lounge singer in a sleazy club. Midway through a set, she’s plunged into Wonderland—by a drag queen bunny (Matt Mager). Thus begins this grim circus.
Director Eamonn Farrell has turned the Ohio Theatre’s stage into a runway, on which Wonderland’s denizens strut and preen. A druggy Hatter (Josh Hoglund) dances with a giant cap, while his leering Queen (Jessica Weinstein) swaggers overhead, perched atop stilts that render her terrifying and absurd. Beloved characters made grotesque: A Wonderland traffics in the imagery of nightmares.
The musical presents Carroll’s story as a metaphor for our celebrity-obsessed culture; everyone sings about money, and the Queen executes people for being more famous than she is. Big ideas aside, however, the production should focus on basics: The performance I attended was rough, with shaky entrances and a sound setup that drowned out lyrics and muddled the band’s music. Let’s hope the festival’s later shows—like The Little Lord Fauntleroys’ Babes in Toyland (July 22–25) and Banana Bag & Bodice’s Space//Space (August 12–15)—arrive better prepped.