Great Performances: Season 12, Episode 2

Alice in Wonderland (3 Oct. 1983)

TV Episode  -   -  Biography | Drama | Music
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From the elaborate Broadway revival of the 1932 Eva Le Gallienne/Florida Friebus production comes a whimsical retelling of the Lewis Carroll classic.

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Title: Alice in Wonderland (03 Oct 1983)

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From the elaborate Broadway revival of the 1932 Eva Le Gallienne/Florida Friebus production comes a whimsical retelling of the Lewis Carroll classic.

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3 October 1983 (USA)  »

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Trivia

Kate Burton's TV debut. See more »

Crazy Credits

This is a revival of a 1930's stage production, but with a new framing device, and the author of that framing device is uncredited. See more »

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Version of Alice Through the Looking Glass (1987) See more »

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Has a very good cast and is a treat for fans of the book
20 October 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass may be on the episodic side but the colourful characters, oddball yet whimsical atmosphere it has and the prose and poetry also make it a classic. Before seeing this theatre production, top of the list for favourites were the Disney film, the 1933 film and the 1985 version(though some parts are uneven) with the Jetlag and Burbank Films Australia animated versions faring the least. This theatre production is really very good and one of the better and more faithful versions, proof that the book can be translated to the stage and work well. It does have a slow start somewhat, Austin Pendleton's White Rabbit is a little too monotonistic, James Coco brings not much personality to King of Hearts and Eve Arden seems a little too laid-back as the Queen of Hearts though her chemistry with James Coco has its moments. However, so much makes up for those mis-givings. The costume and set designs are gorgeous and are like John Tenniel's illustrations come to life, while Richard Adinsell's music really accompanies the production with power and sensitivity. The songs are well-written and work, especially A Sittin' on the Gate and the best one Beautiful Soup. One of the things also about the book is Carroll's humour and his way of words- have always had a soft spot for the Mock Turtle's poem- and they come through brilliantly in this problem. The storytelling may feel somewhat sketchy and episodic but in all honesty that is the one failing that the book has too, what makes you forget that though is the atmosphere that is created, it is weird, funny, whimsical and touching all at once. The tea party scene was always one of the best parts of the book and it is a lot of fun here as well.

The characters are still as colourful as ever(in the story itself it's more the supporting characters- especially Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts, White Knight, Mock Turtle, Mad Hatter, Red Queen, White Queen and Caterpillar- than Alice herself). The acting is mostly fine, Kate Burton is a winsome and charming Alice, though others may find her too mature and sensible. Nathan Lane early in his career is amusing as the Mouse; Richard Woods is suitably sarcastic as Humpty Dumpty; Maureen Stapleton has fun with the White Queen role; Andre Gregory is a funny and oddball Mad Hatter; Kaye Ballard's cantankerous and baby-beating Duchess makes that episode more memorable than it usually is; Fritz Weaver is great as the aloof caterpillar and Tweedledum and Tweedledee are good too. The standouts though are Donald O Connor's melancholic Mock Turtle(he has the best singing voice of the cast and is much better than in the 1985 Natalie Greogory adaptation where he was wasted as the Lory Bird); Colleen Dewhurst's imposing and hilariously manic Red Queen; Geoffrey Holder's sinuous, sly and seductive Cheshire Cat and in particular Richard Burton's genuinely poignant White Knight. Overall, for Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass fans it's a treat, and the very good cast- in one of the better versions to have a literally all-big-star cast- and lovely production values make it work. 8/10 Bethany Cox


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