The team that brought you “Spring Awakening” has a new musical at the brand new MCC Theater complex on the west side. “Alice by Heart” is yet another retelling of the Alice in Wonderland tale with a different twist. The framing device occurs in the London Underground during the German bombing raids early in WWII. The assembled group is cracking up with the pressure of the bombs falling overhead, the close quarters and the uncertainty. When a young lady offers to read the tale from a book she carries the head nurse tears the book from her hand and into bits. So she tells the story from memory, by heart, and takes the role of Alice.
Most of the reviews have complained of a muddled approach but I differ. The very story itself as well as the habitués’ circumstances make for a confusing, disjointed environment which I felt was well served by the direction and the seemingly improvised take. Yes, you have to pay close attention and it certainly helps to know the story (is it still taught in schools today?).
But once you know the order may be jumbled and the sections somewhat juggled it is a clever reminder of how revolutionary the book was when it first was released. Of course, it is in the public domain so no rights must be paid, but still holds up 150+ years later. It is also a refreshing break from the standard technicolor cartoon approach many use for the work. I enjoyed it very much.
It was also a nice treat to see one of New York’s newest and sleekest small venues. I hope to see many more works there.