James DeVita, of American Players Theatre fame, has taken Lewis Carroll's already trippy tale Through the Looking Glass and made it even kookier. Children's Theater of Madison's production of DeVita's Looking Glass Land (in Overture Center's Playhouse) is a bit messy, but it is also spirited entertainment, and director Rosann Sheridan has coaxed good performances out of the cast of adults and children.
When this Alice goes through the looking glass she encounters many of the characters you'd expect (Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Humpty Dumpty and both the red and the white monarchs) and some you wouldn't anticipate (a baseball team, beauty-pageant contestants and tourists). Alice works her way around the chessboard in her quest to be queen but ultimately learns that the journey is more fun than the destination.
Mary Caroline Tilton, as Alice, has the right inquisitive and bemused attitude, and she skillfully handles the demands of her lead role with an easy naturalness. (I worried that she would come off as too affected after the opening scene, but I quickly changed my mind.) Tilton is particularly engaging in her encounter with Humpty Dumpty (played with zeal by David Meldman). Another standout in the cast is Lee Waldhart, a delight in all of his roles but especially good as the White Knight doing battle with the Red Knight (a talented and confident Atlas Brewster). Their fight scene was my 8-year-old daughter's favorite and includes nods to Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
While the production is more stripped down than some of the lavish CTM shows I saw last year, it has a big heart and should appeal to elementary school kids who will get the jokes and appreciate the silliness. I could have done without the hip-hop song about responsibility and some of the running around, but the cast conveys a genuine sense of fun that is especially obvious in moments like choreographer Robin Fonfara's inspired Jabberwocky dance.