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Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland

By David C. Nichols
Los Angeles Times

Along for the trip with groovy Alice A very curious sensation of bizarre buoyancy sells "Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland" at the Falcon Theatre. This daftly delightful Troubadour Theatre Company take on Lewis Carroll's classic sends its heroine down the rabbit hole with a riotous slew of Top 40 oddities and yanks us along.

With troupe leader Matt Walker stirring the peppery pot, "Alice" splices elements of the circus, vaudeville, YouTube and the Muppets into the Troubies' freewheeling formula. Co-director and choreographer Joseph Leo Bwarie's rocketing dances and musical director Eric Heinly's hip band, along with eye popping designs, conspire to give Carroll's opium-addled prose a manic MTV makeover.

Act 1 builds to a raucous Mad Tea Party, where Walker is ideally cast as the Mad Hatter, Beth Kennedy is a lunatic March Hare and Jennie Fahn is a droll Dormouse as they sling cream pies, popcorn and Silly String. Act 2 moves from Alice's picnic with two guest storybook travelers (Kennedy and the priceless Jen Seifert) to a show-stopping croquet match turned trial. The final lurch into '70s sitcom is blissful irreverence.

As Alice, the wonderful Christine Lakin slyly grounds the frenzy, and her colleagues exhibit irresistible moxie. Standouts amid this festive ensemble include Bwarie's feverish, Devo-driven White Rabbit, Lisa Valenzuela's brassy, Toni Basil-fueled Queen of Hearts and Guilford Adams and Dan Waskom as "Kung Fu Fighting" Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Presented in rep with the adult-skewed "OthE.L.O.," this is the company's most ambitious effort yet, and cues were sometimes scattershot at the reviewed performance. However, nobody turns onstage mishaps into hilarity like the Troubies. Aided by Jeremy Pivnick's psychedelic lighting and Sharon McGunigle's fantastic costumes, their trademark spontaneity remains infectious.

The Mardi Gras-sized Duchess may unnerve tiny viewers, many in-jokes will be over their heads, and some errant blue notes must go. Nevertheless, families comfortable with "Shrek" or "The Simpsons" should find that "Alice's" delirious abandon charms children and adults alike.

"Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland," Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank. In repertory with "OthE.L.O"; call for times. Ends Aug. 26. $20 to $32.50. (818) 955-8101. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.

©2007 Guilford Adams. All rights reserved.