Acrobatic Wonder Aplenty In New Cirque ‘Alice In Wonderland’
“Wonder” might be an understatement of just how awestruck I was by Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Cirque Adventure. Conceived and directed by Deena Marcum Selko and featuring an original score by Quentin Chiappetta, this acrobatic extravaganza recently blew into the Adrienne Arsht Center courtesy of Moth Entertainment, a company that “creates live stage shows designed to connect with audiences of all ages.”
Despite the fact that the ability of this nearly wordless show to fully convey the rich narrative of its source material seemed to fall somewhat short of its potential, the sheer “wow” factor of quite a few of the show’s moments easily eclipsed this storytelling shortcoming. But before we move on to all the good stuff, it must be said that the dance sequences by choreographer Alexa Struss, while generally entertaining, were less effective at conveying action or meaning. Similarly, while the show’s occasional sung interludes were impressively delivered by award winning vocalist LC Powell, the whimsical lyrics also didn’t do much to clarify what actually happens as opposed to simply enhancing the atmosphere.
However, one notable exception where meaning came across crystal clear came close to the show’s start, in its rendition of the iconic moment in which Alice “falls” down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland below. Supported by a suspended structure, the agile actress playing the character tumbled through midair, as surreal music played and evocative lighting by designer Becky McCarthy further illuminated her journey. I’ll also note that I believe said actress was Haley Viloria, though a digital program in which characters are not specified and creative team members are confusingly mixed with performers leaves me the slightest bit hesitant to say for sure.
Other sequences that stood out in Act 1 included some fanciful tricks of light led by feathery characters identified in the program as “Dodo” and “Eagle.” Then, there was the first appearance of two characters known as Prima and Pepper played by two performers the program identifies as the Contortion Sisters. Both in this sequence and when they made a welcome return in Act 2, the sisters dazzled with the artistry of their perfectly synchronized movements, performing feats of strength and flexibility I would’ve never imagined the human body was capable of had I not seen it all with my own eyes.
Overall, I found Act 2 the more enjoyable one thanks to a greater quantity of these jaw-dropping feats of athleticism as opposed to more pedestrian dance numbers. For instance, the act got off to an immediately engaging start thanks to the talents of the performer Rokardy, appearing as the Mad Hatter. With a bottle of champagne intermittently in hand, he rose higher and higher on an ever-growing tower of chairs while performing death defying acrobatics at these increasingly great heights, sometimes only holding on to the tenuous structure with a single hand.
Though I was ever-more amazed at his antics, I also found myself wondering more than during the show’s other sequences—in which the performers either appeared to be more secured or were at least closer to the ground—whether the substantial entertainment value of it all was really worth the presumed risk to his well-being should anything go wrong. Not that he ever seemed anything but entirely in control of the situation, but I still couldn’t keep myself from picturing the worst!
Before the show came to a close, two more performers revealed themselves as standouts, though both are among those I couldn’t identify with certainty from the program. The first, playing the Queen of Hearts, wowed the crowd through her remarkable juggling and balancing of various objects, while the second, who played an imaginary creature known as a “Mock Turtle,” performed yet more unbelievably stunning aerial work.
The show also came to a rousing close with a choreographed curtain call that again highlighted the unique abilities of each exceptionally gifted performer. Before this grand finale, Powell also gets another chance to shine in a few verses of Jefferson Airplane’s haunting White Rabbit, which I believe was the only preexisting song featured and added an interesting shading of complexity to the mix with its hidden themes.
Overall, I found the show to be a refreshing change of pace from the more left-brained fare I’m used to, even at times finding myself inexplicably emotional as I watched the performers move in unison across the stage. It was a magical escape into a foreign world that was also a simpler world, totally outside of my usual frame of reference and rich with unexpected joys.
So as long as you don’t mind perhaps occasionally feeling a little lost as you follow Alice along on her fantastical journey, I invite you to surrender to her spectacularly silly world and check out this show and its incredible stars the next time you get the chance. Though the show was only in town for two performances, this past Saturday and Sunday and is soon set to embark on a tour to South and Central America, there are plans for it to eventually return stateside, meaning it isn’t inconceivable that it may eventually cross paths with some South Floridians down the line. In the meantime, you can keep an eye on the future of this unique circus style adventure here!