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'Wonderland' gets rewrite ahead of opening in Houston

Tommar Wilson, in foreground, and Janet Dacal rehearse Wonderland at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in November.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Tommar Wilson, in foreground, and Janet Dacal rehearse Wonderland at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in November.

TAMPA — They say that musicals aren't written, they're rewritten, and that's what has been going on with Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure, which had its premiere in December at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

"One thing we learned from the Tampa process was what was clear and what was not clear to the audiences," said Judy Lisi, president of the Straz, which produced the musical as part of its Broadway Genesis Project. "The story line had to be worked on quite a bit."

Since before Wonderland closed in Tampa on Jan. 3, composer Frank Wildhorn and book authors Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd have been rewriting the book, which is based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Now the musical has its second production in Houston, where it opens tonight and continues through Feb. 14 at the Alley Theatre.

"The book we have now is quite different from the book that opened in Tampa," Boyd, also the director of Wonderland and artistic director of the Alley, told the Houston Chronicle. "And we're putting in more changes, including four new songs."

For example, Lisi said, Don't Wanna Fall in Love, a catchy pop song in Act II, is no longer in the show. "It's a cute little song, but it didn't fit the story." She added that cutting the song was "like chopping off a finger. But the discipline is being able to pick and choose so you keep the story line."

The cast is the same in Houston as in Tampa, with Janet Dacal playing Alice. The production will be somewhat different in the Alley, which has a thrust stage.

Wonderland did good business at the Straz, playing to 92 percent capacity over a seven-week run in Ferguson Hall, configured at 852 seats.

The musical's future after Houston is not set. "I'm going to be meeting with a lot of people the next few weeks to decide," Lisi said. "Does it make sense to tour it first? Does it make sense to bring it in (to Broadway)? I really want to see how far we get in Houston to be able to determine the next stage of the development."

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.

'Wonderland' gets rewrite ahead of opening in Houston 01/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 8:59pm]

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