Through the rabbit hole to the great white way

A Wicked reception: New York critics pan Broadway version of Alley's Wonderland

A Wicked reception: New York critics pan Broadway version of Alley's Wonderland

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E. Clayton Cornelious, left, and Janet Dacal with cast in "Wonderland - Alice Through a Whole New Looking Glass," on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre Photo by © 2011 Paul Kolnik
News_Wonderland_Alice through a Whole New Looking Glass
From "Wonderland," Jose Llana (kneeling), from left, E. Clayton Cornelious, Janet Dacal, Darren Ritchie and Edward Staudenmayer Photo by © 2011 Paul Kolnik
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Jose Llana, Janet Dacal and cast members of "Wonderland" Photo by © 2011 Paul Kolnik
News_Wonderland_Alice through a Whole New Looking Glass
News_Wonderland_Alice through a Whole New Looking Glass
News_Wonderland_Alice through a Whole New Looking Glass

Wonderland might have been a hit at The Alley Theatre last year, but it has yet to impress New York critics.

The musical retelling of Alice in Wonderland debuted in Tampa and Houston in 2009, undergoing tweaks and updates throughout its run. An updated production premiered on Broadway at the Marquis Theater on Sunday, with Alley Theatre artistic director Gregory Boyd directing (Boyd also co-wrote the book) and performers including Janet Dacal as a grown-up Alice and Karen Mason as the Queen of Hearts who are veterans of the Houston engagement.

Unfortunately the reviewers haven't been as kind as Houston audiences. Variety dismissed Wonderland as "less-than-scintillating," citing a lack of wonder and distinction, uninspired performances and a "general air of malaise."

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times doesn't have too many kind words for the music or performances, but mostly laments how Wonderland turns Carroll's tale of whimsy into "a contemporary parable about reconnecting with your inner child and other watery truisms of the self-help industrial complex," with a healthy dose of Dorothy mixed in.

The model here appears to be the Broadway behemoth Wicked, which recast L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a moral-dispensing tale of exceptionally gifted young women (hitherto known as witches) finding common ground in girl power. Unfortunately Wonderland reminded me even more strongly of another latter-day iteration of the Baum story, the bloated 1978 movie version of the Broadway musical The Wiz."

We'll have to wait to see if Wonderland surpasses critics' expectations and wins over audiences — like Wicked did — or if it closes quickly.

The last time a tale from Houston made it's way to the New York theater scene, things didn't exactly go well. Enron: The Musical closed last May after 22 performances.