“Alice in Wonderland” purists may be surprised by Center Stage’s production of “Lookingglass Alice,” a retelling of Lewis Carroll’s popular children’s novels, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” The play loosely follows the plot of these novels, choosing instead to focus on the characters Alice meets on her way across the chessboard to become a queen.
The central point throughout the show is precisely that: Alice, played here by Markita Prescott, wants to become a queen. At eleven-and-a-half years old, she is determined to make her way across the chessboard to be crowned Queen Alice, for reasons implied – it is hinted that she wants to feel comfortable in her own skin as a black woman – but otherwise unmentioned.
In this coming-of-age, musical production, Alice knows Lewis Carroll, or Charles Dodgson (Christopher Ramirez), as he is introduced, intimately and, for some reason, isn’t totally surprised when he appears in her mirror to whisk her away to Wonderland. Along the way she meets the Red Queen, played by a vocally stunning Patrice Covington, who evokes strong Nicki Minaj vibes, the Cheshire Cat, played by the dynamic David Darrow, and the White Rabbit, played by an energetic Garrett Turner.
There is some double-casting in the show, leaving room for quick changes that will beg the question: How did they do that? David Darrow is especially radiant. He plays at least three different string instruments throughout the production and embodies each of his four characters completely and uniquely – not to mention the incredible control he has over his body as the Cheshire Cat.
Each actor is tellingly accomplished both on and off the stage, and they play off each other very well, which only leaves one wondering why certain parts of the show fell flat. None of the design aspects felt as if they fit together under a common theme; the show felt disjointed, only to be put back together as the actors demonstrated their belief in the production.
Though most production aspects fell flat, Lindsay Jones, who created original music for the show, shined. His music provided a refreshing take on the tale and shaped Alice’s world for the audience, giving us a look inside Alice’s mind and allowing us to see her connect with those helping her across the chessboard.
The message of self-acceptance and love permeated throughout the show, and by the time Alice arrived at the final square, she didn’t need a crown – though a crown was provided – to know, in her heart, that she was a queen. Though the script doesn’t stick precisely to the source material, the heart of the story is the same, and one that audiences, particularly younger audiences, will certainly enjoy.
“Lookingglass Alice” will run at Center Stage until December 31. It is a family-friendly show, and tickets are sold online between $25 and $74.