The Stage is Set: “The Looking Glass Wars” Deserves a Broadway Show Like “Wicked”
For those who have found themselves mesmerized by the transformative narrative of Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked,” a Broadway adaptation that turned the world of “The Wizard of Oz” upside down, and proved once again, audiences gravitate toward stories that are “familiar” but told in “unfamiliar” ways.
Frank Beddor’s “The Looking Glass Wars” does just that and more, it should be the next big thing in Broadway adaptations, and here’s why.
Reigniting the Franchise:
Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland is not only an iconic and successful franchise, but it has a profound impact on popular culture across the globe. Successful attempts to reignite previously established franchises frequently take the form of either an origin story or the introduction of new characters/worlds. The Looking Glass Warscombines both historically successful narrative methods by giving the audience the real story behind Alice and expanding that story into a wholly reimagined Wonderland. Wicked (The Untold Story) reinvented the iconic story of the Wizard of Oz and went on to become one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time.
Familiar Yet Unique:
Both “Wicked” and “The Looking Glass Wars” take on the Herculean task of reinventing cherished universes. If “Wicked” challenges everything you thought you knew about the Wicked Witch of the West, “The Looking Glass Wars” does the same for Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” The story deviates from the whimsical Wonderland we think we know, reimagining it as a darker, more complex world with political intrigue and battle-hardened characters. Just as “Wicked” made audiences rethink Oz, “The Looking Glass Wars” has the potential to take us down an entirely different rabbit hole.
Empowering A 21st-century Heroine:
Perhaps one of the most striking features of “The Looking Glass Wars” is its transformation of the traditionally passive Alice into Alyss Heart, a confident and powerful warrior. This shift aligns well with modern-day expectations and aspirations for female characters in storytelling. Gone is the bewildered girl merely reacting to a world gone mad; in her place is a proactive, imaginative woman grappling with responsibilities, moral choices, and her own destiny. In the #MeToo era, where stories of female empowerment are resonating more than ever, Alyss Heart could stand as an icon of what it means to be a woman of agency and substance.
The Multi-Cultural, Multi-Generational Affair:
“The Looking Glass Wars” isn’t just a retelling of an old tale; it’s a story for our time. Its characters come from a multitude of backgrounds, reflecting the cultural diversity of our world. This lends the narrative a multi-generational appeal, making it a story that can resonate with audiences young and old. By presenting a Wonderland that mirrors the diversity of our own society, this adaptation could be as meaningful for grandparents as it is for their grandchildren.
Like a timeless song that never fades from public consciousness, the characters and worlds created by Lewis Carroll have always held a place in our collective imagination. “The Looking Glass Wars” taps into this enduring fascination but updates it for contemporary audiences, adding layers of psychological complexity, socio-political commentary, and ethical dilemmas that make it relatable for today’s world. The issues that troubled Alice and her real-world counterparts are not just issues of a bygone era; they are questions that continue to challenge us, making the story eternally relevant.
One of the reasons “Wicked” garnered such immense success is its ability to humanize the Wicked Witch, revealing the events and motives that shaped her into the character we encounter in “The Wizard of Oz.” Similarly, “The Looking Glass Wars” gives depth and nuance to Alice, here rebranded as Alyss Heart, the rightful queen of Wonderland. The characters are ripe for the Broadway stage, filled with emotional layers, inner turmoil, and dynamic relationships that can be brought to life through powerful solos and duets.
Broadway has a history of celebrating intricate, thoughtful narratives, and “The Looking Glass Wars” provides just that. While the original “Alice in Wonderland” focuses on nonsensical adventures, Beddor’s reinterpretation infuses Wonderland with political instability, war, and exile. This is a story that allows for a complex web of sub-plots, a feature that can help sustain a two-act Broadway musical with aplomb.
A Visual Feast:
Wonderland, as conceived by Frank Beddor, is not just a setting but also a character. Its fantastical elements offer an exciting challenge for set designers, lighting experts, and costume creators. Imagine the spectacular scenes that could be staged: card soldiers marching into battle, morphing landscapes, and dazzling interpretations of familiar settings like the Heart Palace. If Broadway could make flying monkeys and a shimmering Emerald City, a la “Wicked,” think of the stunning visuals that Wonderland could offer.
Music and Emotional Resonance:
Let’s not forget the essential element of any musical: the score. “The Looking Glass Wars” provides a range of emotional highs and lows that could be captured through an array of musical choices. Anywhere from “At the End of the Day” (Les Misérables) to “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” (Phantom of the Opera) to “Your Song” (Moulin Rouge) or “Sun and Moon” (Miss Saigon.)
From the poignant moments of Alyss contemplating her lost throne to the exhilarating action sequences, music can be the heartbeat of this adaptation, engaging audiences just as Stephen Schwartz’s music did for “Wicked.”
The Time is Now:
In an era where audiences crave stories that can simultaneously entertain and make them think, a Broadway adaptation of “The Looking Glass Wars” is more relevant than ever. People want to be surprised, to see old stories through a new lens. With its layered characters, intricate plot, and visually striking world, “The Looking Glass Wars” can be Broadway’s next big hit, offering a fresh yet nostalgic experience that appeals to both Alice aficionados and newcomers alike.
While the realm of Broadway is already filled with adaptations and revivals, there’s always room for groundbreaking work that challenges our perceptions of classic tales. If “Wicked” could breathe new life into the Land of Oz, there’s no reason “
” can’t do the same for Wonderland. Frank Beddor’s masterpiece has all the makings of a Broadway sensation: memorable characters, a gripping plot, and a fantastical world that’s begging to be brought to life on stage. It’s high time we go through the looking glass and see for ourselves.
Meet The Author:
Teresa Lin was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and grew up in Tampa, Florida. She attended Duke University and the film program at USC. She started her career working in development for Janet Yang and Oliver Stone. Then she worked on “Frasier” at Paramount. She got her big break as a writer on “Bones” and has projects in development for Automatic Pictures. She intends to produce stories over multiple platforms, raising awareness, empathy and inclusivity. She lives in Los Angeles with her two kids, her husband, his two children, and three bunnies.
Modern Alice In Wonderland Adaptation on its Way to Liverpool Playhouse
I cannot express how inventive this adaptation sounds – it “follows Alice, a music-loving girl who falls into “Wonderland” when trying to repair her father’s stereo. She meets some unlikely new friends, and battles against the Queen of Charts”. And if you want to experience the work of a top tier cast – look no further.
Olivier and Critics’ Circle Award Winner Leanne Jones will star as the Queen of Charts, alongside Liverpudlian actor Paislie Reed (CITV’s The New Worst Witch) as protagonist Alice. Supporting cast members include Daniel Carter-Hope (Dad Hatter/Play/Fast Forward), Natasha Lewis (Bibi/Queen of Clubz), Jerome Lincoln (Volume), Zweyla Mitchell Dos Santos (Lewis), Tomi Ogbaro (Bez/Jabberwock), John Pfumojena (Eject) and Steve Simmonds (Rewind/Record).
A really unique element that I find fascinating about this production is that the book for the show is by Stockroom—which is a creative hub with over 25 years of experience. It’s like an incubator for the most influential writers in the UK. I am certain the cumulative creative power of a group like that has crafted something beyond even my high expectations for this adaptation. My Wonderverse has certainly taught me the value of inviting others and their voices into creative collaboration.
Let’s not forget that a musical is nothing without the actual songs and lyrics, which are by Vikki Stone. I simply don’t have enough space to gush about her credentials—but 2023 has been a big year for this multi-talented creator. She’s on a hot streak for classic adaptations, bringing Aladdin, Peter Pan, and Cinderella to the stage.
This modern take on our beloved classic got me thinking, as I always do, “what is it about Alice?” Why can we skin any story in the cloak and shorthand of Wonderland regardless of when the retelling takes place?
First, let’s talk about Alice and storytelling in general. Personally, when I was writing The Looking Glass Wars I found Lewis Carroll’s original work very easy to access in my creative process because it was so episodic. I was on a quest to create a linear story – but the very nature of the classic as a series of vignettes allowed met to mix then remix, reimagine and recreate. I could entertain the idea of putting individual elements, be it the Walrus or the Hatter or any other Wonderland oddity, in any scenario. It was as if Carroll had provided elemental building blocks, and any creator might pick them up, mix them together, and create amazing new matter!
The episodic format also provided opportunities for diverse tone. Each episode could have its own distinct atmosphere, ranging from whimsical and lighthearted to surreal and thought-provoking. I chose to take it down a darker path, but it was freeing to have the whimsy be just as warranted. After all, what is wonderland without the weird and wild? It allowed for a rich tapestry of experiences and emotions—and I should think this brings it much closer to reality than most of us might thing. The real world is a rollercoaster of diametrically opposite experiences, and divergences from the norm.
Now, let’s talk about why Alice in particular is just so good for the stage! In my life before being a novelist (and after being a champion skier) I produced There’s Something About Mary and Wicked – and these projects hammered home the golden rule of visual storytelling: “show don’t tell”! This tenant applies to stage just as much as it does to the screen, while presenting a litany of logistical challenges.
A novice might suspect that the constraints of live performance demand monologues that expel unwieldy exposition or internal emotions, but I assure you this is not so. Every participant from the book writer to the director to the production design to the actors themselves need to get creative to convey the most nuanced of themes and feeling.
In the case of this intriguing adaptation Mark Bailey will be providing the set and costume design. A quick peak into his portfolio is enough to get anyone excited. He’s done a remarkable job working in theater, opera, musicals, and dance. While his grander musical stages are colorful and befitting of song—I also enjoy his more abstract handling of his dramatic sets. It leaves me very excited for a fresh and modern look at Wonderland.
When we think of whimsical Wonderland it immediately explodes in the mind’s eye as a visually vivid and fantastical experience. The door is kicked wide open by the nature of Alice in Wonderland for the stage to be transformed into an immersive realm the audience can engage with. Imaginative set design and lighting can be a colorful dive into Lewis Carroll’s creation, or a divergence from the tried and true version of the classic story. The same can be said for costuming and characterization.
Of everything I have read about the Liverpool Playhouse’s upcoming Alice in Wonderland it’s the reinvention of the Queen of Hearts as “The Queen of Charts”. It titillates the imagination with modern possibilities—and makes me wonder what has become of my other favorite Carrollian characters.
My questions about and hopes for this adaptation are endless, and so I will content myself to wait for the premiere—I only wish I could be there myself! It would be a great joy to take it in with my own eyes. However, I know it would only spark me to generate more questions. I would need a long interview with the creative minds behind this wonderful creation—and so I do extend to any and all involved with the Liverpool Playhouse’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland an open invitation to join me on my podcast All Things Alice.
All Things Alice: Interview with the Creative Team of Mad Hatter The Musical
As an amateur scholar and die-hard enthusiast of everything to do with Alice in Wonderland, I have launched a Podcast that takes on Alice’s everlasting influence on pop culture. As an author that draws on Lewis Carroll’s iconic masterpiece for my Looking Glass Wars universe, I’m well acquainted with the process of dipping into Wonderland for inspiration. The journey has brought me into contact with a fantastic community of artists and creators from all walks of life—and this podcast will be the platform where we come together to answer the fascinating question: “What is it about Alice?”
It is my great pleasure to have Vincent Conner, Michael J. Polo and Victor Valdez join me as my guests! Read on to explore part one of our conversation, and check out the whole series on your favorite podcasting platform to listen to the full interview. For the full transcript with exclusive content, join our private Circle community.
Gentlemen, welcome to the All Things Alice podcast. However, for today, I’m going to change it to “All Things Hatter” because we’re going to be talking about your very exciting musical, Mad Hatter: The Musical. I’m going to ask each of you to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what your role is in the musical. I’ll start with you, Vince.
I am the co-creator of Mad Hatter: The Musical. I am responsible for the book. I wrote the story and have been working, since 2018, on building the show. I was the original director of the piece at the London workshop and now I’m stepping into the role of the Mad Hatter in Montreal.
I’m the composer of Mad Hatter: The Musical. The thing I’m most proud of creatively is the synergy and the creative input that we all have in our collaboration more than anything.
I am a songwriter on the show and, as Mike said, once the boys got the show going and knew where the story was going, I inserted myself into the project. Their backgrounds are mostly in classical opera while I come from Latin America. I’m originally from Venezuela where I grew up singing pop ballads and that’s what I thrive on so I added that pop sensibility to their classical sensibilities, which is what makes the music very, very different and very, very cool. Also, I’m joining the cast in Montreal as one of the lead characters. Her name is Yola. I’m a Cheshire Cat, which is why my hair is kind of purple-pink right now.
Before we jump into the whole process, let’s give the listeners the elevator pitch.
I’ve always been fascinated with the character of the Mad Hatter. As time has evolved over the past 100 years, I think my fascination is also a joint fascination with other people. I’ve always gone down the rabbit hole myself of what his backstory was and so this is a story of a crippled man from boyhood who finds his way to Wonderland. In our post-COVID world, we have a lot of archetypes of Mental Health Awareness wrapped up in the musical and we tend to be in this place in history where we’re fascinated with this idea of the villain.
I didn’t want to make the Mad Hatter a villain, but we played with the idea of him being an antihero, making human mistakes, just as anybody would. Because hatters used mercury back in the Victorian period the Mad Hatter suffers from mercury poisoning, which is in large part why he has become mentally unstable. But there are many different levels of the story. You could take it from the fantasy of Wonderland versus the realism of a man going insane.
Does the musical go back and forth between our world and Wonderland?
Yeah, we go back and forth between the turn of the century London and Wonderland. Just as Lewis Carroll uses the rabbit hole, or the looking glass, as a way to travel to Wonderland, we use the Mad Hatter’s hat as a portkey.
That’s so clever. The hat makes perfect sense. So, what is your story behind the story? I’d also like to know how each of you became involved.
Vince and I started working together in 2016. Vince was the director, and I was a production coordinator and director, and producer on a show that we did together called Madame Butterfly. Then in 2018, Vince and I started working in Vienna, Austria. We were running education programs primarily in the opera sector, and we started to branch out. So, we went to London in 2018 in an effort to build a new program called the London Summer Music Theater Academy. We booked the theater, we booked the hotel, we booked the rehearsal space, and then we were looking for a show to do.
We were calling MTI looking for rights to do a show, and we couldn’t get granted anything, but we had booked everything in preparation for a 2019 production. We were on a bench in London, and he said to me, “I have a great idea.” And I said, “What’s that?” He goes, “Mad Hatter.” I said, “Mad Hatter, what?” He said, “We’re writing a musical.”
It became quite a journey, as we led into 2019 with the original production, which was very much a student-led workshop with a full ensemble, in a West End theater. It was not only a way for us to work creatively, but then after the production was done, we all said, “Wow, maybe we should pursue this even further.”
It, creatively, forced us to work on a way to identify that this story might actually have a tremendous impact, not only on the audiences that well-received it in London, but that it could potentially expand into other audiences and become a significant work that can compete with many other existing shows.
Can you walk us through the process? Why do musicals usually seem to take a very long time to come to fruition? What are all the factors that go into getting it ready to put on its feet?
Let’s first start with how our path is a little different than the normal path. One of the questions was, Why does it take so long to get to Broadway? Or why does it take so long to get to La Jolla? It can start in a few different ways. Traditionally, what happens is a producer who’s produced a musical before will cultivate a creative team. They’ll put together a book writer, and a composer that they like, and begin to generate a story. Over the next three to five years, they’re developing the story through table reads and workshops where they will begin to add equity actors and try to elevate the piece after each hearing and continue to grow it into a product that is then commercialized and sellable so the producer can raise the $20 million it takes to get to Broadway. That’s why it traditionally takes so long.
In this case, Mike and I have the study abroad programs in Vienna, which is an education program with the business model: If you want to be a classical musician, we’re going to bring you to one of the classical meccas, which is Vienna. It’s very similar to London if you want to study musical theater. We sensed this hole in education and we wanted to be at the forefront of changing that horizon and so we got this idea to write a musical and as producers we have already created a space for it.
So, we luckily have built the asset, so that now going forward, the London Musical Theatre Academy is going to be for new musicals where we’re actually developing new work right now aside from Mad Hatter. I think we’ve found a way to help musical theater, not only with our show but in general to bring awareness and to bring new projects to life.
What you’re saying is you’ve created an infrastructure as creatives, producers, and educators, which allows your musical, and hopefully other people’s musicals, to find their legs and be developed without the traditional process of the Broadway producer.
Actually, seeing the show, as a creator, was one of the first times in my life that I knew that I was a part of something bigger than myself. It was a very profound moment in my history as a creative. Since then, we’ve had a New York presentation, which is a very traditional step in development. That led us to now, our next step, which is going to be a full orchestra concert, where the music gets to be the hero, in Montreal next week. That is a non-traditional step. We did the industry presentation, and we did a workshop in a non-traditional way, but it’s all connected to the next step, which is really cool.
Your concert with a full orchestra, you said that’s unusual?
It’s unusual because there haven’t been many musicals that have been performed with a full orchestra. It’s typically after a show has been on Broadway for 20 to 30 years sometimes. It’s an honor, because Alexandre de Costa, fell in love with the score because of the pop sensibility mixed with this romantic classicism. Our music has a timeless quality that also feels very relevant to today but it also has a sense of nostalgia that translates really well to orchestral music. Oftentimes in my elevator pitch, I’ll say, “If Wicked and Sweeney Todd had a baby, that’s what Mad Hatter is.”
Let’s focus on the music because we’ve been talking a lot about the orchestral aspect of it but just give us some highlights of some of the different songs and what you’re excited for people to take away from this work.
One of the things that has been super exciting is seeing how the music has evolved from the beginning up to the final arrangement. For example, the opening number, “Pelt to Felt”. In the song, we learn the process of hatting and how they use the pelts from the animals and use mercury to make the felt to make the hats. It’s so insane. There’s no other word to describe the music. It sounds so amazingly insane. It’s very easy to get into the feeling of the show just from that first number.
I’m very proud of this song called “Out of Sight” that I got to write for the wife of the Mad Hatter. It’s a song about how she and the children see the father figure go crazy, and not be the same person that he used to be and how that shifts the dynamics in the family. It’s a beautifully heartbreaking song of a mother, singing about how she knows her children are seeing their father change in front of them and not for the better. Mike has done a ridiculous job orchestrating. It’s going to be such a tear-jerker. I’m so excited to see people cry.
We use different mediums of musical genres. We have “In a Mood” with the three Cheshire Sisters and it’s complete jazz, and then we have the Mad Hatter, who has an operatic pop sensibility versus the Queen of Hearts, who is very much on the operatic side. Then we have Mary Beth, the Mad Hatter’s wife, with Yola the Cheshire Cat being extremely musical theater belt. So, we were able to explore different varieties, but still bring the continuity of that melody that makes it all feel familiar.
I’m curious from a book writing standpoint, where you’re trying to connect the story through the songs where the songs take you from Point A and advance the story yet the book has to be so well written, so the audience can follow the beats and the conflict with the characters. Can we talk thematically about the lead character and his story arc?
So, where does the story end? We end up at the tea party. That’s where I really wanted to end the story. You hear one of our most memorable melodies from “Will You Be My Wonderland?” and we see Alice and there’s a blackout. Literally, people gasped in London, and we had standing ovations, so it was that surprise effect because there isn’t really much mention of Alice at all, except I did give the Mad Hatter a daughter and her doll’s name is Alice.
But, in terms of the story, we were able to approach this from the idea of building an ark. We didn’t say, “What’s going to happen with the Hatter and only the Hatter?” We said, “Okay, I think that we need to do a quartet with the family.” So we actually decided we wanted to do a quartet before we turned it into the dinner scene, which was how we created “Papa Please,” which ended up being a very Sondheim-y number in the show, where we see conflict happening between the Mad Hatter’s children and then we see the Mad Hatter’s aggressive behavior towards them. Just hinting at the chaos after he has been selling hats all day and working with mercury and all those types of things.
In our story, the Mad Hatter’s mother was a ballerina and his father was a hatter. Historically speaking, it’s in between upper and lower class so I wanted to show that by giving these occupations to these two people who would be in between classes. We explore him not being able to sell any hats and there’s generational trauma that we find out about in the overture, in that the Hatter actually wanted to dance like his mother but his father cripples him so he can never dance again.
We explore this with Mary Beth, the Mad Hatter’s wife. There’s this beautiful duet called “Relax, My Dear,” where she’s trying to let him know that everything’s gonna be okay, and he’ll sell hats tomorrow. They have this beautiful tender moment where they actually dance but he falls because he’s crippled and he can’t hold himself. That triggers a downward spiral of being haunted by his father’s hat, which contains the portkey to Wonderland. Then we explore him being very depressed in London versus finding a sense of freedom and utopia in Wonderland, where he regains his ability to dance again.
We wanted to have the psychedelic effects of Wonderland be explained by something which, in our show, is the Wonderland Crystal, which creates the Wonderland Elixir, which, if consumed, connects everybody as almost a communion. But it also makes you feel the effects of Wonderland. In this case, it heals the Mad Hatter and he’s able to dance again.
To make a long story short, Wonderland is a sense of freedom and utopia for him and then it’s taken from him when his hat falls off. The backstory is that the Mad Hatter’s father did some bad things in Wonderland, and so the Hatter is being punished for his father’s mistakes, so this idea of generational trauma comes back and there are multiple reasons why the Hatter goes insane. Then he does whatever he can to get back to Wonderland, including murdering somebody, so we have this interesting juxtaposition between “off with your head.” We have the Queen giving that energy and then the Queen doubles as the demon that haunts the hat, basically punishing the Mad Hatter.
The idea that he’s dealing with something that horrific and difficult, and he goes to Wonderland, where he regains his legs and his ability to dance again, it’s a beautiful reflection of what Lewis Carroll was writing about, which was identity, self-expression, and self-determination.
The dancing part of it is really important because it’s the emotional part that you can just feel as you’re describing it. All the other themes that you’re talking about, about all the other characters that come into it, are going to give it richness. But what’s going to make us cry is when he starts to dance, and we’re relating to him trying to find his identity.
Vince, it might be nice if you share with Frank the moment where Hatter almost imitates his father because I think it’s one of the most pivotal moments of the show.
The moment that Mike is talking about is when the Mad Hatter gets back to London. He was rejected by the Cheshire Cat, who he had fallen in love with because he had murdered somebody to get back to Wonderland. He stole their portkey to get back to Wonderland because he had to get back to see Yola the Cheshire Cat. When she rejects him, he hits rock bottom. When he gets back to London, he is trying to make sense of what’s happening in his life and his son finds the Crystal and we see a recreation of what happened in the overture where the Hatter senior hits the Mad Hatter and now he is about to hit his son. It’s at this moment that he realizes that he’s lost his mind. He realizes that he is no good for his family anymore and he’s actually hurting them. So, he chooses to go back to Wonderland to accept the punishment from the Queen of Hearts rather than stay and bring his family harm. He’s not a villain but he’s not a hero. He’s not technically doing the right thing but it’s very complex.
Alice in Wonderland is a work that has literally given us a vocabulary to articulate the times we’re going through. You hear “down the rabbit hole” all the time, “through the looking glass,” and “Winter Wonderland.” Alice is always redefining a generation, and what’s coming out of your musical for sure, is the mental health crisis. What are you hoping your musical will contribute to the vocabulary of the 2020s? What do you guys think?
I love that in our show, Yola is being played by a man. Victor’s playing a female, which is kind of an ode to the operatic background that Mike and I come from, with men playing women’s roles has been happening since the 1600s. Suddenly, politically, it’s causing World War Three right now in the United States with what’s happening in Tennessee with drag bans. I just saw My Fair Lady, and there were men playing women and women playing men, and yet, it’s being banned in places like Tennessee right now. It’s just another opportunity for us to show, it’s not about gender, it’s about humans and emotion. This idea that fantasy can be fantasy and emotions are emotions. I love that we’re turning a few things upside down like we have the Cheshire Sisters instead of the Cheshire Cat. I just think that we’re being true to ourselves by incorporating this idea of our 21st century.
I’m so happy to have had this chat. Thematically, you guys have such a strong show but as people, you’re really creative and trying to share your knowledge and your education. You’re also reaching out to give folks a forum, offering them a space to learn. There are so many aspects of how you’re going through life that I think a lot of us hope and want to be able to do – be creative and give back. It’s a beautiful thing to listen to, especially through the Alice in Wonderland lens, a work that’s been so imaginative. It’s been with us for over 150 years and you’re finding a way to make it relevant now in the 21st century.
If you were a character from Alice in Wonderland, who would you be and why?
Go ahead, Victor. I’m going to ask you first just because you have the biggest smile on your face. I don’t know if it’s because you have a Cheshire Cat smile right now.
Only because it’s so freakin’ obvious. The way that Vince wrote the Cheshire Cats and the Cheshire Sisters is so fun. I love the way that the Cheshire Cats are in our show, and thinking about how they are with how the Cheshire Cat is in Alice in Wonderland, it’s so easy to see how the whole Cheshire race is so fun that I just have to be the Cheshire Cat. I just have to.
And you Michael?
Oh my gosh, I don’t know. I think maybe when I was 19, I would be the Caterpillar for sure. Now that I’m 37 I don’t know. I’ve kind of lived through every role. I think right now, I’m currently feeling like the Mad Hatter. But I think Vince is coming into it more than I am.
I don’t know, Mike, you kind of strike me as the Rabbit.
Maybe I’m the Rabbit. Maybe that’s it.
I’ve been really getting ingrained in the Mad Hatter because I’m just performing the role, but I’m actually going to answer it similarly to what Michael said. I love this idea of the Caterpillar because it reminds me so much of my grandfather. In the book, I think the Caterpillar’s portrayed a little bit as a jerk but when I envisioned him, I think of him as more wise and philosophical. That’s really what I want to be.
Those are excellent, excellent answers. Gentlemen, thank you again, so much. This is just part one. We’re going to have more of the creative crew on and we’re going to talk more about pop culture influences, Alice, and, of course, we’re going to talk more about the Hatter. We’re gonna do a little bit of trivia about some of his rhymes and we have quite a bit more to go through. But until then, thank you for an epic morning of the Mad Hatter and your music.
The Alice In Wonderland Musical Could Be Coming Soon…
Frank and I have been working on Looking Glass Wars for years, developing the TV series, the trilogy of films and of course, that far-flung star in the sky of IPs…the musical.
“Like a full theatrical musical adaptation?” You ask. Absolutely.
Years ago, when Frank sat down with fellow author and friend, Gregory McGuire , to talk about ways to expand the Wonderverse of LGW, he gave him a singular piece of advice:
DO THE MUSICAL.
Frank took that to heart.
For those of you who don’t know Gregory McGuire, he’s the author of WICKED, the novel. Which is better known now as a musical. And that’s no accident. Greg had the insight to collaborate with Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz for the musical, and the rest made history: it surpassed 1 billion in revenue and became the second highest grossing musical after THE LION KING.
The understanding in the industry was that musicals, while fruitful, took a long time to develop. It took years to find the right book writers, composers, singers, production entities, etc. It is a great idea but hard to execute well. Following on the heels of other IPs in the public domain that told a familiar story in an unfamiliar way, LGW would be taking a left turn from the original in the same way WICKED took a turn from “Wizard of Oz” and FINDING NEVERLAND from “Peter Pan.”
A self-produced musical based on a Netflix show from Shondaland, it follows the trials and tribulations of the Bridgerton family as they navigate the competitive world of London’s high society during the social season where marriageable youth of nobility and gentry are launched into society.
It’s Gossip Girl meets Downtown Abbey, where the location and period, although Baroque, taps into the emotional zeitgeist of an audience living those truths today. Barlow and Bear, at the ripe-old age of twenty-one, were able to capture the feelings of Bridgerton’s characters through the modern, almost pop-sensibility of their music.
Their songs garnered more than 200 million views and 48 million likes on TikTok, and won the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. They became the youngest nominees and winners ever in their Grammy category, and the only Grammy winner developed on TikTok.
Their journey began as a powerful question: “What if?”
It was posed to their listeners, casting a net wide with possibility and wonder…
It brought to mind Frank’s own “What if” – that began his soul-search 20 years ago. He wanted to find out how he could transform the woeful “everything-is-happening-to-me” Alice into a modern, “I’m-gonna-slay-you-with-my-imagination” Alyss. He didn’t want to write another adaptation to Lewis Carroll’s stories. He wanted to tell the story behind the story, to discover the reason it was written in the first place.
What Frank wrote was Alice/Alyss’ origin story. Then the Mad Hatter’s, Queen Redd’s, expanding into the populace of Wonderland mythos. This was the birth of TheLooking Glass Wars….
Turns out, Alice Liddell, had quite a life. She was a disrupter herself – becoming a Victorian icon and muse for Lewis Carroll, rising to the highest echelons of Oxford society and gaining the love of Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria’s youngest son.
Alice/Alyss fought against social injustice and criminal enterprises as much as she rebelled against outdated monarchical customs, earning the ire and admiration of Queen Victoria. She’s orphaned, lost, and chosen all at once, a princess who must return home to fight for her claim to the Queendom, to defend imagination. It is much more than a coming-of-age tale featuring a single woman. It speaks to our human need for creativity, imagination, and story—a need that transcends time and cultural divides. It’s a story driven by the universal questions of identity, self-expression, and self-determination.
In his research for the trilogy, he teased out the connections between historical fact and Carroll’s fiction, unearthed a universe of material that captivated his own imagination, and brought the rest of us with him. He redefined Wonderland for a different generation and invited us into his creation.
The best part of this 20-year process was discovering who ALICE/ ALYSS became for other artists. Collaborating with more than 100 artists/ co-creators (such as Andrea Wicklund, Vance Kovacs, and Chris Appelhans)since the inception of this Wonderverse, The Looking Glass Wars has become a call to action. The raison d’etre for LGW to exist and evolve circles in our culture and consciousness.
On its surface, this is a story about a girl fighting to find her way home but, in the macro, it is a story about the war that eternally wages between conformity and imagination. It is a primal battle all beings face — to respect, defend, and love themselves while living in a world turned upside down—where deceit is truth and honor is whatever you can get away with. A world of disruption. Of upheaval. In media. In culture. In politics. In everything.
The tyranny in Victorian times still feels contemporary today. Like the social norms portrayed in “Bridgerton” – these feelings of conformity know no time or place; it is the struggle we all face: to be ourselves despite the pressure to be like everyone else.
Which brings us to our musical….and Barlow and Bear….
WHAT IF… we can bring these two together?
Can we make “ALYSS OF WONDERLAND” a Barlow and Bear reality?
Who better to give voice to our forgotten inner-child, to sing the story of all women who have the power to see beyond the veil of the matrix and have big-enough-dreams to penetrate the mind of the ordinary world to reach their HEART and become Queens of their Queendom?
Who better to tell the story of all sisters, mothers and daughters separated and put against each other because of patriarchal ways, the story of integrating and embracing the shadow-self? To remind us of when we were little and JUST KNEW in our hearts that magic was real and to remember, to belong, to see, to come home…
If it’s true what they say, “FANTASY JUST DECLARED WAR ON REALITY,” we need imagination warriors on our side. Seers from a disrupted world for whom light, beauty and music rise above the fray, and carries with them the feelings of hope just as strong and real and tangible as the bleakness of despair.
If we are to do a musical, my hope is to do it with Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear.
Meet The Author
Teresa Lin was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and grew up in Tampa, Florida. She attended Duke University and the film program at USC. She started her career working in development for Janet Yang and Oliver Stone. Then she worked on “Frasier” at Paramount. She got her big break as a writer on “Bones” and has projects in development for Automatic Pictures. Her intention is to produce stories over multiple platforms, raising awareness, empathy and inclusivity. She lives in Los Angeles with her two kids, her fiancé, his two kids, and three bunnies.