Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto
People's Light
Review by Rebecca Rendell

The Cast
Photo by Mark Garvin
Since 2004 the People's Light has been charming audiences of all ages with an original musical holiday panto. The panto is a theatrical format that mixes the story of a classic fairy tale with a prescribed set of shenanigans, including a bad guy to "boo," audience participation, a cross-dressing Dame, some jokes for the locals, and a messy sequence. Thanks to a stellar performance by award-winning drag performer Eric Jaffe, an uplifting story by Jennifer Childs, and a delightful original score by Alex Bechtel, this year's production may be the best one yet. Brimming with holiday happiness and pure joy, Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto is a perfect way for the whole family to get into the holiday spirit this season.

Disappointed by her parents and harangued by the teacher, Alice Little's first day of middle school is so terrible she ends up hiding in the library. Things get even worse when she follows the White Rabbit into the wrong book and falls into Wonderland. To get back home, Alice will have to get past a pair of shade-throwing flowers, a White Queen who always moves back, a Red Queen who only moves forward, a ballad-belting Mad Hatter, and an oh-so-evil Queen of Hearts. Alice's guide on her strange journey is the purrrr-fectly marvelous Cheshire Cat. Alice struggles against the feeling that she is stuck in the middle of everything, but ultimately learns that the only way to get through life is by moving forward and enjoying all the good stuff that happens along the way.

Cheshire Cat is played by one of Philadelphia's most celebrated drag performers, the fantastic Eric Jaffe. Adorably charming and seriously funny, Jaffe lights up the stage. Jaffe also serves as the show's drag/gender representation consultant, making sure that absolutely everyone feels welcome. Inclusiveness is one of this production's greatest assets. Grace Ellis Solomon is endearing and sympathetic as exuberant young Alice. Every great story needs a great villain and Mary Elizabeth Scalle plays Miss Hard and the Queen of Hearts with hilariously over-the-top malice. Other stand-out performances include Kim Carson as Stepmom/Red Queen, Altamiece Carolyn Cooper as Mom/White Queen, and Justin Jain as Dad/White Rabbit.

Rebecca Kanach's excellent costumes–and there are dozens of them–are imaginative, flashy-fun, and impeccably executed. Pi Queen's make-up designs and Sapphira Crisal's wigs take the characters' looks to the next level. The entire production has a bright effervescent aesthetic that shines under Mike Inwood's dynamic lighting design.

Silly, splendid, unexpectedly heartwarming, and thoroughly engaging, Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto is a delightful holiday romp. Follow the White Rabbit to the People's Light and shimmy down that rabbit hole as soon as you can. Bring the whole family along with you for the adventure.

Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto runs through January 1, 2023, at People's Light's Leonard C. Haas Stage, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern PA. For tickets and information, call 610-644-3500 or visit

Book by Jennifer Childs
Music, Lyrics, & Arrangements by Alex Bechtel
Directed by Bill Fennelly

Director of Production Charles T. Brastow
Music Director Abdul Hamid Royal
Choreographer Melanie Cotton
Scenic Designer Chris Haig

Costume Designer Rebecca Kanach
Lighting Designer Mike Inwood
Sound Design Robert Kaplowitz
Wig Designer Sapphira Cristal
Makeup Designer Pi Queen
Fight Director Eli Lynn
Drag/Gender Representation Consultant Eric Jaffe
Assistant Director Abby Weissman
Stage Manager Kate McSorley Fossner
Assistant Stage Manager Jess McPhillips

Cast: Stepmom/Red Queen: Kim Carson
Mom/White Queen: Altamiece Carolyn Cooper
Bob/Caterpillar: Patrick Halley
Dinah/Cheshire Cat: Eric Jaffe
Dad/White Rabbit: Justin Jain
Mean Flower/Tweedle: Eli Lynn
Understudy: Bryanna Martinez-Jimenez
April/March Hare: Susan McKey
Miss Hart/Queen of Hearts: Mary Elizabeth Scallen
Ensemble/Swing: Angel Sigala
Alice: Grace Ellis Solomon
Dormouse: Tom Teti Hattie/Mad
Hatter: Alexis Tidwell
Ensemble/Swing: Tiara Whaley
Mean Flower/Tweedle: Danny Wilfred