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Alice By Heart

From 28 critic and 271 member reviews
Members say: Great singing, Great staging, Clever, Ambitious, Confusing

About the show

The Tony and Grammy award-winning creators of "Spring Awakening," Steven Sater and Ducan Sheik, reunite for MCC's new musical inspired by "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland." More…

In the rubble of the London Blitz of World War II, Alice Spencer’s budding teen life is turned upside down, and she and her dear friend Alfred are forced to take shelter in an underground tube station. When the ailing Alfred is quarantined, Alice encourages him to escape with her into their cherished book and journey down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. As they travel through the tale, "Alice By Heart" explores the poignancy of first love, coming to terms with loss, and finding the courage to move forward. This world premiere musical encourages us all to celebrate the transformational power of the imagination, even in the harshest of times.

New York Stage Review

“A darkly whimsical, utterly transporting musical...For all of ‘Alice by Heart‘s’ moving elements, in fact—among them the fittingly dreamy, sinuous choreography, by Rick and Jeff Kuperman—it is the score, impeccably orchestrated by Sheik, that makes it transcendent, a term that can still be applied only occasionally to contemporary musicals, notwithstanding the resurgence in recent years. Catch it while you can, and prepare to be devastated, and uplifted.” Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

“’Alice by Heart’'s twists and turns often seem rather chaotic. But that effect is in keeping with the rambunctious spirit of Carroll’s stories. Sater and Nelson shed the books’ dark and faintly menacing undertones. But they add an original vein of understated pathos to their version. And, in contrast to the habitual melodramatic arc of musical theatre, they resist the temptation to put a bow on the story at the end.” Full Review

Front Row Center

“While there’s much to like about ‘Alice by Heart’, I don’t think it’s quite there yet...Whenever you’re doing an adaptation of any work, the big question is why...For me, that was murky here. There was a lot of musing about time and the lack of it. Growing up and not growing up, but I didn’t get any arc in the character of Alice herself...There’s a lot of creativity here and the basic concepts and structures work well...The ensemble cast is splendid, and it looks like they’re having a lot of... Full Review


“Don’t expect a traditional telling of Carroll’s beloved children’s story in ‘Alice by Heart’...The production is a hallucinatory take on the familiar tale, and it gets a bit muddled at times...Probably that doesn't really matter, better to simply enjoy the great music and the ultimately sweet retelling of the story...And to reflect, of course, on how we all struggle at times with the need to fit in.” Full Review


"A vaguer fantasia...Alice's Adventures is already somewhat scattered in its episodic construction, and retelling the story with an even looser structure comes with narrative disadvantages...Although the inconsistent accents are occasionally distracting, the singing is uniformly strong...In general, the production is beautiful to look at...’Alice By Heart’ has rough spots on the narrative front, but with its strong score and production design, it helps to mark a promising start for MCC." Full Review

New York Theater

“There is much to like about this show - the inventive choreography...the colorful costumes...and the charming performances...Despite Hart’s catchy vocal arrangements, this new score offered echoes of their earlier work without being especially memorable. And the plot did little more than begin at the beginning, and go on till it came to the end, then stopped...An intermittently entertaining but hardly mandatory return down the rabbit hole.” Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

“In this version...Alice is a young girl, orphaned in the Blitz, who tries to combat the awfulness of shelter life by rereading her beloved ‘Alice in Wonderland’...I will leave matters there because further developments were too confusing to try to explain...A few of the songs made a strong impression, but they began to sound alike after a while. The talented young cast...was as in fine voice and moved well...Audience reacted to the show with great enthusiasm.” Full Review

Theater Reviews from my Seat

"The most interesting aspect of this musical is the parallel paths taken by Alice Spencer/Alice down the rabbit hole...The creativity in the staging is additive to the fun...The show feels like a series of ideas and captivating visuals without a center core to truly flesh out this particular retelling...'Alice By Heart' simply exists to offer some very entertaining musical numbers...This creatively staged but underdeveloped musical is fun even if it did not achieve the promise of its dark pre... Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"'Alice by Heart' tries desperately to find its footing in the often-mined landscape of Wonderland...An overly complicated but sometimes compelling musical score...Bouncing along the haphazard journey is a fascinating concept with a convoluted and discombobulated execution...The cast is game though, and very invigorated by the task at hand...Especially when paired with the athletic and inventive choreography...The team’s work is fantastically dynamic." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“The production is a design and staging marvel...But the show holds its wounded characters and their shared heartbreak in such tender regard that you are left with nothing to do...Nelson's direction, aided by the inventive choreography of Rick and Jeff Kuperman, bristles with creativity...If ‘Alice by Heart’ had a more compelling Alice, it might work better, but Gordon adds problems of her own, beginning with a marked lack of vulnerability...This rabbit hole leads to a dramatic dead end." Full Review

The Wrap

“This version has the distinct advantage of being updated from the 19th-century to World War II London during the Blitz, and many of the liberties taken by Sater and Nelson are captivating...But sometime between the Caterpillar and the Jabberwock, the novelty wears off and the narrative isn’t strong enough to push the show forward...The lyrics are another matter...I couldn’t follow them. Reading them the next day, I found Sater’s wordplay vivid and imaginative." Full Review


"While the score strikes several reminiscent notes, it smooths over the meatiest ambiguities in Alice's story in favor of gentle poetic metaphors. It may come out sounding very pleasant, but the result is far too tepid — both emotionally and cerebrally — to measure up to the eye-opening (and hopefully mind-bending) experiences that unfold in Wonderland...Nelson's precisely punctuated direction, ends up suggesting more clarity in the story than there turns out to be." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Why, I wonder, do we need yet another version? Surely not because it updates the material with modern profanity, sexual humor, and drug use, all of which have been done before…Which isn't to say 'Alice by Heart' doesn't have its pleasures…The fast-moving script is nonetheless confusing, there's little sense of plot progress, and the lyrics often muddled…They've been directed to play everything in the broadest way, with lots of mugging, shouting, and even screaming." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

“’Alice by Heart’ has no hint of irony about it, and it’s hard to spark any heat...Whenever the Kupermans and the actors can let loose together, the show momentarily takes off, but Sater and Sheik have weighed it down with so much schmaltz, and tarted it up with so much half-assed sexiness, that 'Alice by Heart' can’t help but feel like a slog. As a production, it has moments of real ingenuity and charm." Full Review


“'Alice by Heart,' joins the ranks of adaptations that have gotten tangled up in the details of nonsense, despite some dreamy melodies, clever staging and an emotional arc for the title character...The twin tales are burdened with so many symbols, riddles, wordplay and metaphors that it all ends up more exhausting than invigorating...It’s just no fun...The cast is solid...Though a coming-of-age approach gives this 'Alice' some distinction, a wonder it is not.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The overriding arc is that, faced with Albert's impending death, Alice finally grasps the coming-of-age moral imbedded in Carroll's book: she must learn that she can-and must-keep growing, defy authority when necessary, and, above all, face the loss of Albert. It's a fairly simple message that, while stirring, gets buried time and again in the overly elaborate staging of chapters from Carroll's book, many of which strike me as the result of some weird reality show challenge." Full Review

Off Script with Dan Dwyer

"Might as well be called 'Sexual Deadening'...The relentless association of sexuality and death gave me, old guy that I am, pause...Sheik’s score is OK, peppered with some pleasing pop-rock melodies...The mood is too consistently dark and the choreography, novel as it is by Rick and Jeff Kuperman, too proscriptive and angular. Though there are all-too-brief splashes of whimsy - 'Alice' doesn't trade in joy or spontaneity." Full Review

AM New York

“A new folk-pop musical...Although sincerely intended and full of creative touches, ‘Alice by Heart’ is a disjointed, depressing and bewildering mess. It would be near impossible to follow it without a working knowledge of the source material...Sheik and Sater’s songs are mellow and hazy and have little integration with plot...Considering that ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a classic novel in the public domain, virtually anyone can write a musical based on it. Perhaps a good one will turn up." Full Review

The Observer

"A muddled concoction, tangled up in too many layers of reality and fantasy, to deliver its emotional payload...It’s hard to keep the stakes straight or feel any real bond with the characters...Although staged, story-theater style, with inspired tableaux and choreography, Sater and Nelson’s concept is too static and circular, leaving us—and Alice—no one to credibly save, no dream from which to wake...The creative team means to rouse our imaginations, but the effect is perversely soporific.” Full Review

Theater Life

"Shortchanges characterization and depth for gimmicky effects...It’s an intriguing conceit but Sater and Nelson’s book barely establishes the characters so there is no emotional investment in their desperation to retreat from reality...Sheik and Sater’s score features some sweet and stirring songs and Nelson’s staging does include some novel images...But the sameness of the concept grows repetitive...But even at 90 minutes, this 'Alice' is a tedious, less than golden afternoon." Full Review

Stage Left

"It’s an incoherent jumble that is gorgeously sung and energetically performed (impressive choreography by Rick and Jeff Kuperman), but otherwise incomprehensible. Lyrics are not poetry, and when they are, audience comprehension can too easily get left out of the equation..Despite many fine performances—and highly imaginative and evocative sets (Edward Pierce), costumes (Paloma Young), and lighting (Bradley King)—there is not much of a legible show to hold on to here. " Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"It seems incomprehensible a new musical with a score by Sheik and Sater could be a tedious, incoherent mess, but, sadly, 'Alice By Heart' is such a musical...The pieces simply don't fit...Nelson and Sater's libretto mistakenly assumes a high degree of familiarity with Carroll's work...Its dense and complicated storytelling, and it flies by at a rapid pace...Sheik and Sater's songs, all 20 of them, are tuneful, but they're also surprisingly repetitive and, unfortunately, derivative." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

“A well-intentioned yet misjudged attempt to combine Lewis Carroll’s tale with a second world war romance...Extravagantly well-intentioned and hopelessly inert new musical...’Alice by Heart’ lacks the hard graft of creating fully realized characters and a recognizable world...The creators have assumed a comprehensive familiarity with the Alice stories. Expertise will decode some of the scenes, but it won’t really deepen or repair the musical." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

“’Alice by Heart’ demonstrates that it might be time to give Alice and those fantastical characters surrounding her a well-deserved rest...Some of the transformations are inventive...But there's precious little else to hang it all together, save for the omnipresent pop-rock score featuring no less than 20 songs blending into an unmemorable hodgepodge...Despite the efforts of the hard-working ensemble, ‘Alice by Heart’ ultimately doesn't have much heart at all.” Full Review


"'Alice By Heart' with score by lyricist Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, and book by Sater with director Jessie Nelson is a big disappointment. This new musical treatment of 'Alice in Wonderland' reset in W.W. II London during the Blitz is confused and confusing. What is most missing is the magic and enchantment of the fictional world of Wonderland. The songs do not forward the story but seem to be philosophical commentary, often anachronistic to its 1941 period." Full Review

Funny, Romantic, Delightful, Clever, Absorbing

See it if you’re a fan of Alice in Wonderland and the Sheik/Slater team

Don't see it if you’re not familiar with the story... but let’s face it, who isn’t?

Great staging, Entertaining, Enchanting, Clever, Absorbing

See it if You're looking for a new, fun, amazing experience. It's a beautiful new retelling of a beloved story.

Don't see it if You don't like loud noises.

Quirky, Great acting, Enchanting, Entertaining, Clever

See it if Enchantingly quirky. A WONDERFUL SURPRISE! The acting was phenomenal!

Don't see it if You do not like abstract art and/or just want to follow along and not use your creative mind.

Intelligent, Great staging, Entertaining, Clever

See it if you love having a fresh approach to an old story that captures the essence and beauty through beautiful physical and vocal creativity.

Don't see it if you want the original story told without the beauty of this production.

Enchanting, Entertaining, Clever, Delightful, Absorbing

See it if Love the true story of Alice.

Don't see it if Do not like fantasy.

Refreshing, Ambitious, Enchanting, Great singing, Great staging

See it if See it for the gorgeous Sheik score and the incredible staging. This is the rare "Alice" riff with real ideas and stakes.

Don't see it if You get squirmy during introspective ballads with dreamy, vague lyrics, or if you don't have at least a little affection for Lewis Carroll.

Great singing, Entertaining, Refreshing, Quirky, Absorbing

See it if Love or like Alice and love seeing different way of the story.

Don't see it if If you want the old Alice only.

Also Alice is one of the most popular story that people like to reform in a... Read more Read less

Moving and earnest, Absorbing singing and music with more potential to explore, Beautiful storytelling, Well-choreographed, Charmingly quirky

See it if you want to see one of the more exceptional, yet weird, new musicals in a comfortable new theatre space designed to maximize your immersion,

Don't see it if uninvested in quirkier works heavy on choreography-as-storytelling; lacking imagination or empathy with the traumatized. Some bawdiness

Also An enchanting love-letter to bildungsroman, literature, friendship, an... Read more Read less

Clever, Refreshing, Intense, Great staging, Enchanting

See it if you like witty writing loaded with riddles (Shakespeare comes to mind;) inventive choreography and cliché-free singing. The hype is real.

Don't see it if you would much rather brag to your friends that you saw a famous show on Broadway; this one is off-kilter for sure.

Great staging, Great singing, Dizzying, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if You enjoyed Spring Awakening and enjoy the Sheik/Sater common theme of growig up.

Don't see it if You dislike rock musicals/puberty/Alice in Wonderland

Great ensemble work, Great staging, Great singing, Enchanting, Clever

See it if Its too late, Closed ... but cross your fingers that it gets picked up again.

Don't see it if ???

Cherish magic, even after magic dies

See it if here's Alice Spencer stuck in London's underground during the blitz, recalling Wonderland's fantasies to try to save her best friend. Great.

Don't see it if you're an Alice purist & reject variations from the classic text. This musical has them (and weak sound engineering) aplenty.

Also Nice Duncan Sheik score and Steve Sater lyrics romp delightfully throu... Read more Read less

Great music, Great staging, Great singing, Clever

See it if you love an inventive new staging of a classic story with beautiful music, great staging and wonderful performances!

Don't see it if you don't enjoy Musicals, nor a fan of Alice in Wonderland.

Absorbing, Refreshing, Must see, Great singing, Clever

See it if you wanna see a highly creative and refreshing musical with a great cast

Don't see it if you don't like musicals, are expecting a super literal plot, if you want to see something that doesn't require a lot of attention

Also I will be honest, I think Alice in Wonderland is overdone at this poin... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Great singing, Great staging, Great acting

See it if You like a reinterpretation of a classic and learn a bit about situations out of your knowledge base. Great music and performances

Don't see it if You like only full happy traditional broadway musicals

Transportive, Beautiful, Resonant, Clever, Absorbing

See it if you believe in new generations finding new meaning in the stories we know by heart.

Don't see it if you don't know or like Alice in Wonderland, or you don't want to see a show that is likely not finished.

Great writing, Great staging, Great singing, Great acting, Clever

See it if If you like time based pieces.

Don't see it if Yo don’t like musicals

Intelligent, Great singing, Edgy, Ambitious, Clever

See it if You are an Alice aficionado and love the Spring Awakening vibe/aesthetic in an intimate venue. Fans of Duncan Sheik will love the score.

Don't see it if You don’t want a complex or sometimes obtuse story told in a wartime setting.

Great acting, Great staging, Clever

See it if You enjoy a really cool set & costumes. Like musicals linked to history. If you enjoy an ensemble cast of fantastic talent, and great music!

Don't see it if You are looking for bright colors and glittery costumes. Don’t see it if you don’t care for the story of Alice in Wonderland.

Also Duncan Sheik is an amazing artist. If you liked Spring Awakening, you ... Read more Read less

Clever, Delightful, Funny, Great singing, Intelligent

See it if Wonderful twist on Alice in Wonderland. Great ensemble, beautiful music, and incredibly inventive and captivating choreography.

Don't see it if The show is not superficial musical entertainment.

Refreshing, Quirky, Funny, Delightful, Clever

See it if you think you'd enjoy a reworking of Lewis Carroll with a bit of steam-punky edge. Most songs are wonderful and the set is really well done.

Don't see it if you are not interested in the fantasy of Alice's adventures or are triggered by WWII and the London Blitz.

Clever, Quirky, Great staging, Great singing, Dizzying

See it if fast-paced wild ride into Alice territory with modern sensibility; dizzying and entertaining staging and choreography

Don't see it if has some of the weird "English-ness" of Matilda; plot is rather obscure; peeks through only occasionally

Funny, Entertaining, Great staging, Clever, Absorbing

See it if You like inventive staging, good acting, fantastic set and costumes.

Don't see it if You're expecting a great story.

Also I liked this. A little slow getting started, but I decided to stop wor... Read more Read less

Romantic, Quirky, Great writing, Great staging, Enchanting

See it if you love the imaginative magical aspects of the Alice books. The clever use of the unusually wide stage creatively produces a moving story.

Don't see it if you are expecting a children's Alice in Wonderland. This is very sophisticated.

Funny, Great singing, Entertaining, Delightful, Clever

See it if You really enjoy the Alice in wonderland story. Music and simple staging with no “fluff”

Don't see it if You’re expecting a grand production like phantom of the opera

Cast & Creatives (25)