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April 10, 2011 4:05 PM

The Women of Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland is getting a new millennium makeover, thanks to writer and composer Frank Wildhorn. Wildhorn's Broadway musical version of Alice, simply titled "Wonderland," puts a modern twist on Lewis Carrol's famed fairy tale, giving its familiar characters...

Alice in Wonderland is getting a new millennium makeover, thanks to writer and composer Frank Wildhorn. Wildhorn's Broadway musical version of Alice, simply titled "Wonderland," puts a modern twist on Lewis Carrol's famed fairy tale, giving its familiar characters a whole new lease on life. Nothing is as it would be in this Wonderland. Alice is a struggling writer and mom living in Manhattan, the Mad Hatter is a Burlesque dancing woman -- that's right, woman (think less Johnny Depp, more Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge") -- and the Queen of Hearts, well, she still wants "off with their heads," but she also has a whole new look.

WWD talked costumes, icons and even boy bands with the musical's three stars, Janet Dacal, Karen Mason and Kate Shindle.

janetdacal1.jpgJanet Dacal, the new and improved modern day Alice, is more Annie than Alice with her curly red bob. Gone are the long blond locks and blue apron dress, as this Alice wears leggings and boots. "I think the idea is that she's a modern American woman, and the costume really represents that. People recognize this woman on stage as somebody they either know or feel like they're very much like," Dacal said of her laid back ensemble.

Even if she doesn't get the chance to don the iconic costume, Dacal isn't jealous of her co-stars who wear multiple over-the-top brilliant frocks. "Karen [Mason] and Kate [Shindle's] costumes are absolutely beautiful. But actually I'm so grateful that I just wear one thing and I feel so comfortable in it. It allows me to be free and move around on stage and not feel confined to a garment."

For her part, the show's star credits composer Wildhorn with successfully playing up the production's modern feel. Dacal uses the song "One Knight," sung by Wonderland's hero "the white knight" and his fellow knights in something straight out of a Backstreet Boys video, as the perfect example. "People aren't expecting the boy band to bust out in the middle of Wonderland." She adds, "[The music] really transcends to what America is today."

Thumbnail image for karenmason.jpg
Karen Mason, the delightfully wicked, often nerdy Queen of Hearts, isn't intimidated by her character's iconic persona. "The great thing about the Queen of Hearts is that even though everybody has read the book, it's not based on reality. It's not that I have to look like Jackie Kennedy. I don't have to look like someone or be like someone. To play a character that people think they know and give it a personal spin is kind of fun," said Mason.

And the costumes help give that spin, according to the Queen, who cites costume designer Susan Hilferty's creations as an integral part of getting into character. "I cried the first time I saw my black and white dress. The workmanship and the detail that Susan put into it. Right on the upper left hand side of the bodice by the shoulder there's actually a hand holding a flower just like on the playing cards. It's that kind of details that lets you make specific choices as a character and just makes everything a lot more interesting."

Thumbnail image for kateshindle2.jpgLike Mason, Kate Shindle thanks costume designer Hilferty for the details that make it easier to play the Mad Hatter vixen. "She adds details to things that the audience doesn't even see. There is a denim costume with orange silk lining that I wear in the second act that has some of the verse of the Jabberwocky poem [from Lewis Carroll's novel "Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There"] embroidered in it. Even if the audience doesn't see it, I know."

But what's a hatter without her hats? Shindle's only gripe is with her character's trademark toppers. "The hats really wear their welcome after a while. The weight of them really gets to me."

"Wonderland" has been in previews since March 21st and officially opens its curtains on April 17th.



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