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Finally on DVD!!!! People familiar with this piece either really love it or just can't get into it. I belong to the former category. I first saw 'Alice at the Palace' on TV in 1981 as part of this thing NBC was doing called Project Peacock. I don't really know what that was, but I think it was like an attempt to bring PBS style programming to the unwashed masses.
In any event, I remember that it came on at a time when Meryl Streep was getting a lot of flack for being such a 'serious' actress. This program was a delightful surprise to both her fans and detractors who at this point had no idea that she could sing and dance and had a flair for comedy. A musical adaptation of 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass, 'Alice at the Palace' uses the style and trappings of 19th century British Music Hall to tell the story of the bored little girl who falls down a rabbit hole and discovers a strange world.
This theatrical conceit makes for lots of imaginative songs and very clever staging. Streep as Alice is charming throughout (and noticeably pregnant) and displays a fine singing voice. The rest of the cast is peopled with familiar TV faces: Betty Aberlin, who played Lady Aberlin for so many years on 'Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood,' Mark Linn Baker, from that awful sitcom 'Perfect Strangers,' Michael Jeter from 'Picket Fences,' and most recognizable, Debbie Allen from 'Fame.'
All are wonderful, but the real pleasure of the show is Meryl Streep and her boundless versatility. She brings small bits of genius to her performance that never fail to fascinate. I have never seen an adult adopt so authentically the mannerisms and body language of a child. She is truly talented.
The songs are all uniformly wonderful, many of them a comic pastiche or parody of certain musical artists and genres. Streep does a killer Joan Baez, Aberline does a great take on a lounge jazz singer.
For several years I enjoyed my old VCR TV copy of the show (with all those damn James Garner-Mariette Hartley Polaroid commercials) but it was badly overplayed and scratched. I was thrilled last year to have discovered the DVD release from KULTUR videos.
For anyone who has kids, who loves theater, or who thinks Streep should have starred in 'Evita,' this, show is for you!
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