Monday, July 23, 2012

Musical Spotlight: Wonderland

OK. I have been kind of addicted to the songs from this show for the last month or two and have been wanting to share them because nobody knows this show. The problem is this: I can't really tell you why I love it. It's one of those cast recordings that just connects with me and I don't have any good reason why that should be the case. So, fair warning, this musical spotlight is really less me talking intelligently about the show and more just me going, "Here are five songs I love! Listen to them and maybe you will love them too!"

It's sort of a modern-day Alice in Wonderland story, although not a very coherent one (at one point, Lewis Carroll himself appears as a character). But the most important thing to know is that the music was written by Frank Wildhorn, who is fantastic. His shows are, sadly, not very successful - he has a tendency to work with awkward lyricists (curse you, Leslie Bricusse!) and the books for his shows are often terrible. Wonderland's reviews were mostly things like: "The score is fantastic, the book makes no sense." (They were correct on both of those things.)

Wildhorn does a lot of musical adaptations of old books and plays. His most famous is Jekyll and Hyde, but he's also adapted Dracula, Cyrano de Bergerac, and The Scarlet Pimpernel. (And I love all those cast recordings too.) My favorite songs of his tend to be his big beautiful gothic-romance-sort-of-sound love songs - very showtuney - so I wasn't sure at first if I'd like Wonderland, which is much poppier. But, uh, I totally do. And I can't stop listening.

So without further ado, here are my 5 favorite songs from Wonderland.

1. Go With the Flow
This is the Cheshire Cat's song (or "El Gato" as he is called in the show). It's got a Latin flavor to it (one of the YouTube comments on the song says, "The Cheshire Cat, as played by Carlos Santana?"). He's a very mellow character and sings this to Alice when she first arrives in Wonderland. This song is a lot of fun, but only in the last week or so has it become one of my favorites.

2. One Knight
The White Knight is the leading man in this story. This song of his was one of the first ones I ever heard from the show. Done as a boy band parody (complete with cheesy boy band dance moves), it's about him swearing to protect Alice. It's mildly funny, but it's actually got a really pretty melody and I'm kind of a sucker for songs about knights (and no, I don't know why. I know that's weirdly specific. They just make me happy). Also, I really like Darren Ritchie.

3. Through the Looking Glass
This is the act one finale, where all the good guys go through the looking glass to save Alice's kidnapped daughter from the Mad Hatter. It's got a great "let's go save the world, la ba dee da!" vibe to it. This was the first song I really obsessed over from this show. Listening to it just makes me a much happier person. As with most of these, I have great trouble articulating what about this song actually grabs me. It just... touches me, somehow. (This is the kind of wonderfully articulate commentary you get from me tonight, folks.)

4. I Am My Own Invention
This song is sung by Lewis Carroll (also played by Darren Ritchie, which is probably another reason I love it). This section of the show makes little to no sense - Alice goes somewhere and runs into Carroll and he tells her to be herself and she goes and sees herself as a child and then she's like, "Sweet, I can be myself!" and so, yeah, the lyrics are pretty iffy and cheesy, but I love Frank Wildhorn's melodies. Ever so much.

5. Together
And here our band of good guys... I don't remember. Band together. For something. I think they're singing to try to convince the White Rabbit that together they can all... work together. Yeah, by this point the show has mostly fallen apart, plotwise, but I still really enjoy this song. Although, again, I can't tell you why. It is a secret. It's also pretty boy band-y. Maybe that's secretly why I like this show. So much of it is cheesy boy band pop which (confession) I miss. So it's both fun and nostalgic for me.

So that's Wonderland. For my next musical spotlight, I'll try to choose something a little showtunier and less pop, but in the meantime I had to share my can't-stop-listening cast recording.

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