By Jason Letts
In 1865, the world marveled at Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a groundbreaking work stretching the borders of our imagination. But it seems that the author’s vision of perplexing insanity has never been pushed to its limits until now. No, I’m not talking about the new film version starring Johnny Depp to be released in March 2010. I’m talking about a little known children’s musical version set to run in Hiroshima-ken’s city of Shobara on Oct. 18.
On paper, this production seems like it will come off smoothly and effectively, considering the budget exceeds a JET’s annual salary and the production team shipped in from Osaka, but one need only to look at the script to know that something drastic has happened to our beloved childhood fable. To put it simply, the story looks like the love child of Mike Myers and Al Gore, creating an odd blend of silliness and environmentalism. Many of Alice’s most memorable moments are unstageable and have been replaced with references to Japanese cartoons or a grab bag of Western cultural icons. Doraemon seems to be the creator of Wonderland. Santa Claus has a part.
As if that were not enough to ensure that people would leave scratching their heads, let’s consider the cast. We’ve got a small army of elementary school children, half of whom are cute and the other half I have personally diagnosed with ADHD, a handful of diva-wannabe junior high school girls, some well-meaning adults, and then me. I plan to make every effort so that I don’t botch this thing completely, but we’ll see how good my intentions turn out when the curtain goes up and I’m relying on my non-existent acting background.
It seems like each day of rehearsal reveals a new way that this show could unravel. The Cheshire Cat’s costume looks like the Halloween outfit of a trampy college girl. The major action of the play revolves around a protest to stop the queen from cutting down a tree. I will be singing and dancing. Indeed, the question is not if something will go wrong, but what, when, and who.
But for all of the problems myself or other fans of the original story might have, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of this production. I have no doubt that, however it turns out, it will remain a fond and frequent memory of my time in Japan.
For those of you interested in witnessing this ill-fated spectacle, the show starts at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 18. Tickets will be sold at the door for a slim 1,000 yen. Shobara is most easily accessible via the Chugoku Expressway. Buses leave from Hiroshima Bus Center’s platform 9 twice an hour and take around 100 minutes. The performance will be held at Shobara’s Municipal Theater, just next to the very visible Red Cross hospital. Feel free to email me at infinitejuly (at) gmail (dot) com for more details.