NS reviews

Reviews of theatre and art in Nova Scotia and beyond

Neptune Comes Alive with Alice in Pantoland and a Winter/Spring Season

Laura Caswell dominates as the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Pantoland, written and directed by Neptune’s artistic director Jeremy Webb. (Stoo Metz)

Alice in Pantoland is an explosion of colour and comedy, song and dance, at Neptune Theatre to Jan. 9.

The annual, family, holiday show is back – yay! It is the largest cast on the Neptune stage since the pandemic and there is no skimping on costumes or props.

Written and directed by Neptune’s artistic director Jeremy Webb, the show is about time travel, the evil Queen of Hearts and the necessity for Alice to return to save Pantoland from ecological disaster.

The plot is a hanger for an exuberant script loaded with familiar pop songs, including local hits, and cultural references from TikTok to the Tardis to Dr. Strang. The word play is tongue-tripping and dizzyingly fast as Webb embraces the nonsensical in Alice in Wonderland.

He creates a Tim Burton-style fantasy particularly in the Mad Hatter. Allister MacDonald gives a spectacular, kinetic, heart-wrenching portrayal of this intense, crazed character who finds sanity in his madness.

The Hatter’s feelings of being an outsider are captured in great songs of longing with MacDonald’s powerful, emotive voice. There’s a beautifully-performed, angsty duet with Alice, played by Faly Mevamanana as a lively, dark-haired tyke with the spunk of Little Orphan Annie and a smile as wide as the Cheshire Cat’s.

Laura Caswell’s Queen of Hearts is a Trumpian tyrant in a towering, red wig and full red skirts blasting out anthem rock and dominating the action. It’s great to see Nova Scotia’s Troy Adams back at Neptune in the spicy, comedic role of the addled Rabbit.

Allister MacDonald as the Hatter and Faly Mevamanana as Alice in Alice in Pantoland. (Stoo Metz)

Show highlights include the “Inner Ninja” dance by Adams as Rabbit and Todd Hunter as the beleaguered King of Hearts and Hunter’s cool jazz number as the caterpillar urging Alice to just “chillax.”

Adam Francis Proulx plays Tweedle Dum as a ventriloquist voicing his Muppet-like twin brother, Tweedle Dummy, with Katherine Norris and Anthony MacPherson as servants to the queen. MacPherson does a star turn in a rapid, flamboyant, solo dance.

There’s a powerful, inventive creative team behind the wonderful energy and beaming faces of the actors with top-notch choreography by Tracy Fanous, solid musical direction by Sarah Richardson, who directs musicians including Alex Wrethall (drums) and Andrew Murray (guitar), a hot lighting design by Jess Lewis, colourful sets by Vickie Marsden and a great variety and use of colour with some Steampunk references in costumes by Helena Marriott.

The team includes stage manager Krista Blackwood with assistant stage managers Jennifer Schamehorn and Rachel Dawn Woods and Katerina Bakolias (RBC Chrysalis Script Apprentice).

This musical comedy blasts away the bleak and got a standing ovation. Behind me I heard the family comments: “I like the King, I like Alice, I like the Queen.” And from the grandmother, “It’s too long.”

Alice in Pantoland could lose a couple of songs by the Queen and even the most adorable Mad Hatter but it’s no pain to watch the high-wattage energy of these actors singing and dancing their hearts out in a heart-warming story.

Alice in Pantoland runs at a little over two hours including an intermission to Jan. 9. Tickets are online at neptunetheatre.com or call 902-429-7070 or toll-free 1-800-565-7345. A Christmas Carol in the studio theatre is sold out.

THE NEW SEASON

This week Neptune announced Act Two of its 2021-2022 season. The much-anticipated and Covid-delayed Billy Elliot: The Musical will be staged the summer of 2022; information on dates and tickets to be released in the new year.

The Season:

Beneath Springhill: The Maurice Ruddick Story, Jan. 25 to Feb. 13, by Beau Dixon, starring Nova Scotia’s Jeremiah Sparks as “the singing miner,” an African-Canadian who survived nine days underground during the Springhill mining disaster of 1958.

Beneath Springhill, from the Arts Club Theatre Company production, starring Jeremiah Sparks. (Moonrider Productions)

Rumour Has It: The Songbook of Adele, Feb. 17 to 19. Actor/singer, Kelly Holiff, who played Captain Hook in Neptune’s Peter Pan, sings Adele’s iconic songs.

Koqm, March 8 to 20, presented by Nestuita’si Storytelling, written and performed by shalan joudry and created to honour of the forgotten voices of L’nu (Mi’kmaw) women. Guided by the strength of an ancient tree (koqm), fictional L’nu (Mi’kmaw) women share stories of grief, humour and resiliency. The show was developed in part at the Ross Creek Centre and premiered at King’s Theatre, Annapolis Royal, in November.

Samqwan, May 12 to 15, created and choreographed by Sarah Prosper and originally commissioned and produced by Highland Arts Theatre, Sydney, earlier this year. Samqwan is the Mi’kmaw word for water; the multi-disciplinary show explores water from an Indigenous perspective.

The season-ending musical is the Rocky Horror Show, April 5 to May 29, the “cult classic, sci-fi/gothic rock n’ roll musical,” according to the press release.

Tickets for all productions are on sale at www.neptunetheatre.com or calling our box office at (902) 429-7070.

Samqwan, from the Highland Arts Theatre production. (Corey Katz)
Koqm, starring shalan joudry, from the King’s Theatre production. (Dan Froese)

Categories: Uncategorized

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