This high-energy musical is just what the doctor ordered to brighten up a cold and dismal January. Drawing inspiration from the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it creates a new spin on the classic tale with the main characters – Alice, the White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts et al – undergoing therapy in The Institution for Extremely Normal Behaviour.
Beneath the exuberant singing and dancing is a highly moral message that everybody should be respected, whatever their own personal problems may be (low self esteem, eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive behaviour all feature here), and that ultimately, there is no such thing as normal.
Adults will find much to admire in this fast-paced show, but there is plenty for children to enjoy in a musical which is family-friendly and includes some audience participation.
It is difficult to single out any one performance in this highly talented ensemble, but praise must go to Teneisha Bonner for her crazed Queen of Hearts, an extraordinary long-limbed Grace Jones-type, who dances with a compelling elegance and magnetism. Plaudits too, should go to Isaac “Turbo” Baptiste for his effervescent Mad Hatter. All the dancers have an amazing, rubber-limbed agility which leaves you wondering “how did they do that?”
The singing throughout is particularly strong; Sheree Dubois and Elliotte Williams-N’Dure have powerhouse voices which speed the action along, with an on-stage band playing songs especially written for the show by DJ Walde and Josh Cohen. “I keep falling asleep” by the Dormouse is a particularly funny highlight – don’t forget to buy a programme as his career CV makes entertaining reading.
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is on at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8EH until 22 January. (Relaxed performance on Wednesday 18 January at 2.30pm)
Tickets £15-£35 Box office: 020 7304 4000/0300 6789 222