Director Denise Devin has done it again, making theatrical magic on a shoestring over at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre with Alice!, her supremely imaginative, delectably comedic adults-only musical take on Lewis Carroll.
Devin and co-scripter Zombie Joe’s Alice remains a dreamer, though she’s now a contemporary 30something who discovers that her decidedly erotic dreams are not her own, but those of her great, great, great, great-grandmother, whose Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass inspired Carroll’s now classic tales.
Despite her older sister’s instructions to get a life, Alice (Lara Fisher) can’t help dreaming of a Knight In Tighty Whities with a schlong the size of a 24-ounce beer can.
Imagine, then, Alice’s dismay upon learning that the life of her anatomically blessed White Knight is in danger, as are the lives of the few remaining inhabitants of Wonderland and Looking Glass who’ve not yet had their heads chopped off by the wicked Queen Of Hearts (Jana Wimer).
Told in no uncertain terms that it is she and only she who can kill the heartless royal, Alice sets off on a psychedelic journey that will introduce her to a cast of characters known to any Carroll lover but not quite as Walt Disney imagined them.
These include White Rabbit (Michael Woodruff), Dormouse (Ellen Bienenfield), March Hare (Jason Britt), Mad Hatter (Cat Cela), Mock Turtle (Gloria Galvan), Humpty Dumpty (Daniel Palma), Cheshire Cat (Jonica Patella), Blue Caterpiller (Starskee Suavé), and more, as seen through the eyes of the director who made holiday magic at Zombie Joe’s a couple of Decembers ago with her inspired take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Fisher anchors the hour-long Alice! with her spunky take on the title character and a signature voice combining equal parts gravel and squeak, and she is surrounded by an all-around splendid cast who know how to unleash their inner zombie.
Composer Chris Reiner sets Carroll’s words and his own delightful lyrics to a bunch of seductively-tuned songs.
Scenic designer Raul Contreras fills Zombie Joe’s black walls with a couple of decks worth of playing cards (plus Angelia Weitzman’s flowers) for a striking look* that proves how much can be done on a shoestring budget.
In addition, rarely has the Zombie Joe’s Underground’s upstairs window been used more ingeniously, whether hiding a trio of chills-inducing backup singers, or providing Humpty a ledge from which to have a great fall, or giving a pair of guinea pig puppets a place to pop out from and drive the Queen Of Hearts batty.
Jeri Batzdorff’s costumes* (with assistance from Wimer) are both fanciful (White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, Dormouse, and Humpty deserve special snaps) and sexy (Wimer’s Queen Of Hearts gets clad in a cleavage-enhancing red bustier and Britt’s White Knight and Palma’s Henchperson sport revealing undies and little else), while Suavé gets his own design kudos for his Caterpillar and Bill The Lizard wear.
Still, if there’s one overwhelming reason Zombie Joe’s Alice! proves such a winner, it’s the divine Devin, whose co-authorship, direction, and choreography make the latest from Zombie Joe’s a phantasmagorical holiday treat.
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
December 13, 2105
Photos: Zombie Joe’s Underground
*Production stills do not accurately represent Contreras’s scenic design or several of Batzdorff’s ultimate costume designs.