2 Jan

Thanks to a creative partnership with the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Houston’s own Alley Theatre is bringing us the world premiere of Frank Wildhorn’s latest musical, Wonderland. To hear Alley artistic director Gregory Boyd tell us about “Alice’s New Musical Adventure,” the show opening here Jan. 15 is several steps removed from the Lewis Carroll story that gave the world so many variations, including an iconic Disney animated film and a typically star-studded TV mini-series by Irwin Allen. And Boyd should know, because he wrote the book with lyricist Jack Murphy and is the show’s director. 

1. The Alley is certainly not new to national attention for its bold productions, but what is new and most exciting to you about this musical? 

GB: Any new piece brings it own particular excitements.  This is such a fresh young cast of amazing performers, led by Janet Dacal, who is a joy to work with, watch and for all of us to write for. They are all extraordinary performers. 

2. Here’s a story that’s about Alice and a looking glass and a trip to Wonderland, but it apparently ISN’T “Alice in Wonderland.” Since you are writing the book for this music as well as directing it starting in Tampa, how do you see the relationship of this new show to the classic tale? 

GB: I’m not the only writer.  Frank and Jack and I had the idea some years back and this was the time we got together to do it.  Frank’s music and Jack’s lyrics and the book that we are creating are all ‘dreaming’ of Alice in Wonderland, but through the sensibility of a modern woman. 

3. After the likes of Disney in animation and Irwin Allen on TV, we the audience expect to be transported somewhere visually, not just told we’re going. How would you describe the design elements and projected scenery that help us enter this fantasy world? 

GB: The play takes place all in one night – one moment of one night, really – at a rooftop party in a big city – and all that our Alice is experiencing, in her love life, her family life, her professional life (she’s a writer), filter up in her dreamscape.  The scenic elements try to support this idea without overwhelming it – and the projection design is there to enhance the dream nature of the event.  But, at its heart, it’s a play with a lot of dance and music in it – and they take the main focus, rather than the design. 

4. From what I’ve been told, this show is opening in Tampa then moving to Houston at the Alley. What has to happen – what do you expect will happen – between it closing there and opening here? 

GB: Since it’s a new musical, we will continue to work on it.  When we premiered Jekyll & Hyde during my first season at the Alley, every performance, literally, was different.  A dozen songs went in and out of that particular score, characters were dropped and others created – it was wild fun.  There are many ideas in the creators’ brains on WONDERLAND, and I’m certain that we will be ‘transforming’ the show throughout its run in both cities. That’s part of the challenge and the fun of it – and for the audience as well – they become part of the process. Many audience members kept returning to Jekyll throughout its run to see the changes, and many of the changes were inspired by the audience’s reactions to the show. 

5. Are there special joys, or perhaps special challenges, in directing a work you yourself have written? How do you get the “distance” from the words to make the tough decisions directors sometimes have to make? 

GB: As I said, there are three writers – so we all share the ideas and we all try to be as helpful/critical as we can be.  The design team on this production, and the music department too are all hugely smart, talented and inspired individuals – with many, many shows’ worth of experience on Broadway and other theatre centers – and a large part of the delight is in marshalling everyone’s talent and contributions into the show. So it’s not so hard to keep distance – I have lots of wonderful collaborators in the room. And I am always a believer in judicious cutting as well as constant revising. 

6. Most of the world premieres the Alley does, like this season’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” are not particularly family-oriented. Yet WONDERLAND is clearly trying to appeal to adults and young people alike. How do you go about this? And might this be a chance to “evangelize” young audiences more used to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter than to an evening in the theater? 

GB: I don’t think that’s true.  Jekyll, Treasure Island, Civil War, Leading Ladies, An American in Paris were all premieres and had a large following of young audiences.  This one certainly is a Family show – but I’m hoping it’s smart enough  to appeal to the very discerning ear of a practiced theatre-goer too. The score, of course, is a treat for anyone with ears.  The Alley has a younger audience than most US theatres, and are envied for that.  This show will have a very broad appeal, I have no doubt. I think all the current technologies are great, but they are not a particularly good way to market to a “younger” audience. The way to appeal to younger audiences is to do work they want to see.  They’ll want to see this.

Photos: (above) Murphy, Wildhorn and Boyd; (below) Janet Dacal.



  1. Kerry Buxbaum January 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    I’m just wondering if this “Wonderland” production will also appeal to small children. Would a 10 year old like it? I would love to take my grandchildren, and they are 8 yrs. old, and 10 yrs, old. What do you think?

  2. houstonartsweek January 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    I of course have not seen WONDERLAND yet, and I’ve learned the hard way that every parent has a slightly different list and things their children shouldn’t see. BUT… the Alley is creating and promoting this show to be good for families.

  3. Marilyn Kay January 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    I’m very excited about the upcoming show but I’m a little confused and curious as to why the Alley is calling it a World Premiere. If it has already played in Tampa, why wouldn’t this be called the Regional Premiere? I’d appreciate a clarification.

    • houstonartsweek January 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

      Sleight of hand, or sleight of words… that’s what I’d say. This is the “world-premiere” production of a show created by and for the theater in Tampa and the Alley. They are technically OK calling it that, even if the typical world premiere is a little bit more like the first time.

  4. timbo January 9, 2010 at 6:06 am #

    I think a 10 year old would like it. The central theme is that Alice and her husband are having issues, and the young daughter wants them to work it out. We saw it in Tampa and it was a lot of fun. Great stage, beautiful costumes, the music is great, and it’s well cast. The plot had holes in it, a little confusing at times, but overall a good show that I would see again.

  5. Ethan February 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    The coolest show ever! I saw it a few days ago with my family! It was the best play ever! Janet Dacal did a great job at performing, so did the others! xoxox

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