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Brian Mackey and Megan Carmitchel. (Photos courtesy of Ken Jacques.)

Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” are timeless classics, and there have been numerous lesser-known stage adaptations of his surreal books. One in particular is a musical written by the late Elizabeth Swados, Alice in Concert.

Renamed Alice, Lamb’s Players Theatre’s terrifically fantastical staging features many of the plot points and characters from Carroll’s two novels.

During the beginning of a typical day, Alice (Megan Carmitchel) follows a white rabbit (Angela Chatelain Avila) down a rabbit hole into Wonderland. Once Alice is transported, she meets colorful friends and foes including The White Queen (Nancy Snow Carr), the Cheshire Cat (William BJ Robinson) and the egomaniacal Red Queen (Eileen Bowman).

Swados’ adaptation is one trippy vignette after another, and feels true to Carroll’s experimental storytelling. An unconventional element to her version is the use of original songs.

The musical numbers from Swados cover a variety of genres from rock and roll, gospel and folk. Her incorporation of different styles of music adds plenty to the appeal of the staging.

An onstage band led by conductor/keyboardist Ian Brandon, play through the different melodies with strong musicianship, and quickly adapt to the array of numbers. The tunes are wonderfully sung by the entire ensemble, which is thanks to G. Scott Lacy’s musical direction.

Carmitchel is onstage for practically the entire production, and she sings and acts with an innocent persona that suits the role. Her interactions with the ensemble are usually witty and fun to watch.

In addition to the ensemble members mentioned earlier, performers such as Geno Carr, Catie Grady, Brian Mackey and Jacob Caltrider add plenty of personality to the evening in Coronado. Each of them are comically versatile as the strange inhabitants of the places Alice visits.

The only scene that is played a little too broadly is a sequence with the Mad Hatter (Mackey). Although Carroll’s characters are not subtle by any means, some ensemble members childlike giddiness is more exaggerated than needed. Outside of this scene, the co-stars contribute quite a bit to the merriment.

What is interesting about the costumes from Jemima Dutra is that all the performers, except for Alice, are generally dressed in today’s fashion current attire. A lot of the reasons audiences can believe the supporting artists inhabiting different roles, is because of the way they play their parts, which involves unique physical and vocal choices.

These performances work, because of director, Deborah Gilmour Smyth.

Nancy Snow Carr, Geno Carr and Erika Osuna.

Smyth’s direction and choreography is purposefully frenetic and energized. She does take advantage of contemplative scenes as well, which allows theatregoers to breathe in between moments of spectacle.

Standout contributions from her crew that are worth mentioning are Nathan Peirson’s lighting, especially when darkness is incorporated onstage, and Michael McKeon’s projection design. McKeon’s projections in particular, help bring the different locations to life.

The family-friendly interpretation should please people with even just a little bit of familiarity with Carroll’s writing.

Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus, future performances are cancelled until April 1 at the very earliest. Given the high quality of the production, I hope the run at Lamb’s Players Theatre resumes next month.

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Lamb’s Players Theatre
Work 1142 Orange Ave. Coronado CA 92118 Work Phone: 691.437.6000 Website: LPT website
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David Dixon

David Dixon

A fan of theatre from a young age, David Dixon began writing reviews while in middle school, for Union Tribune’s Rated G column and sdcnn.com. He was the Entertainment Editor for SDSU’s The Daily Aztec. Currently, he contributes to San Diego Community News Network, a regional reviewer for Talkin’ Broadway, an interviewer for San Diego Theatre Reviews and has won several San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. David is a San Diego Theatre Critics Circle member, an American Theatre Critics Association member & Regional Theatre Tony Award voter.

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