Composing for a Winter Wonderland.

I’ve had Dominic’s script for a couple of weeks now, but I started developing some of the musical ideas for the show over the past few months. Now I have real lyrics to set into songs and numbers. This first priority is to write the songs so that the cast have them by the first day of rehearsals. Once I’ve written the songs then I can start arranging them and creating the backing tracks. After that, and during the rehearsal process, Dominic and I will decide where we need underscoring and musical stings to accompany any action or media.

The great thing about using backing tracks is that I can write for a full orchestra and band without the players taking up half of the LPAC auditorium in performances; so I’m enjoying making Hollywood scale arrangements for our small theatre. The challenge is creating tracks that can be flexible enough to allow the cast space to perform. With that in mind, I’ll spend time with the cast on their interpretation then I will start programming in speed changes, creating loops for vamps, and splitting tracks for pauses and ad libs etc.

Once rehearsals start in September then I’ll be working with the cast, teaching them their music. I can’t wait for that; I’ll finally hear my music jump off the page and come to life!

In terms of a musical style for the show, I have pretty eclectic tastes and believe that for music to serve the stage it should draw on anything that enhances the performance. I’ve been inspired by a number of elements in the Alice narrative: transformation, other states of normality, the fantastical and nonsense poetry of Lewis Carroll’s world made me think of, among others, two strong musical idioms: The psychedelic rock of the 1960s and bitonal French 6th Chord, with its transformative nature. Alice is enticed into Wonderland by the cast calling her name spelling out the notes of the magical chord that can live in many keys at once and none in particular at the same time. Similar to Wagner’s famous Tristan Chord, it disturbs our musical equilibrium and invites us into an ever-changing soundscape.

The Mad March Hare and the Mad Hatter enjoy a crazy duet in a whirligig of psychedelia: cue Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds-like guitars and organs as well as a twist of Gilbertian patter song. Tiger Lilly and Alice have a playful duet based on word games while the Tweedle twins enjoy a slap-stick Music Hall number. I particularly loved writing the Pig’s Song. It’s a madcap world but as W H Auden said: “No [music theatre] plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.”

Mark Wilde, Composer and Musical Director

Writing Alice’s Adventures

Writing a new show is always incredibly exciting, and Alice’s Adventures in Winter Wonderland has been no exception.


We made the decision that this year’s Christmas Show was going to be based on Alice in Wonderland even before we had finished last year’s show, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. That show was a huge success, so we have a lot to live up to this year, and as such, the stakes are really high! One of the reasons we decided to write a home-grown show this year was to make the most of the tremendous talent we have in-house in design, puppetry, video work and music. Anyone who saw last year’s show will know that we really invested in the production, so it is great to be able to write a show ourselves into which we can weave as much technical wizardry, fantastic frocks and rousing music as possible. And because we are writing the show from scratch, we can also respond to the 24 students who are performing in it – they all auditioned around Easter, and seeing the skills they have has really inspired us to write dynamic, fun-filled characters.


There are plenty of characters that are recognisable from Alice in Wonderland  – the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, for example; but for our production we have decided to go a little bit further in creating the world of Wonderland. In fact, our show is actually an amalgamation of Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass. In some ways, this is because Through the Looking Glass has more of a quest structure – it’s built around a game of chess, and Alice is desperately trying to find her way to the 8th square. Well, we are not using chess as such, but we are building our Alice’s story around the idea of a quest, and the 8th square (or our version of it, 8 o’clock) is a key part of that quest. So there are lots of characters from Through the Looking Glass as well: Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and even the Jabberwocky, providing us with the thrilling finale to Alice’s quest.


We have also made up some of our own characters. Every hero or heroine going off on a quest needs a companion (think of Frodo and Sam Gangee), so we have given Alice a side-kick in the form of Tiger-Lily, a sassy and street-wise hipster who helps her along the way. In this Wonderland, Jack Frost and his accomplice Icy Jill have kidnapped the White Rabbit, who is the guardian of time; so time has stopped and an icy winter has descended over everything. The only way for Alice to save the day is to jump-start the clocks again by making it to tomorrow morning. She has plenty of tribulations on her way, of course, but eventually… well, you will have to wait to see the show to find out how it ends!


So, look out for some of our amazing puppets, like those made by Myk Hoyle for the Jabberwocky and the Cheshire Cat; get yourselves ready for some of the wacky and weird costumes from the brilliant designs of Helen Symonds; look forward to some of the captivating video sequences being put together by filmmaker Karen Savage; and get ready to tap your toes to the music of composer Mark Wilde. All of these will feature in LPAC’s best Christmas show yet – Alice’s Adventures in Winter Wonderland!


Dominic Symonds, writer and director