Presented by Phat Tracks Productions
NeverWonder: The Musical is a playful, queer, fan-fiction fusion of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Meeting in a mental health facility, Alice and Wendy bond over a shared madness—their experience of fantastical places and the eccentric, magical inhabitants found therein. Compelled to re-identify and grow beyond their past traumas, they decide to use only last names—Little (Rhys Whitham) and Darling (Jess L. Callaghan).
Just as their relationship gets intimate, possessive male figures from their past—the flying, forever-young Boy (Peter Mundell) and the cynical, raving Hatter (Dalton Bolton)—burst onto the scene, dragging them back into the connected magical worlds of Neverland and Wonderland. They must work together to defeat oppressive forces and be reunited.
Written by Callaghan, there is a scintillating, wish-fulfilment charm to the story. Musically, this isn’t particularly memorable, but the score and lyrics do carry us through fluidly enough. The story itself feels solid and authentic. Without cumbersome tonal shifts, it goes to some dark places.
Particularly intriguing is the way the Boy and Hatter personas are thematically linked to the Doctor and Nurse (played in dual roles by Bolton and Mundell). As one set of men tries to kidnap the them, the others force pills down their throats to silence them if they don’t conform to heteronormative expectations.
Each cast member has an impish, persuasive energy. Mundell gives Boy a spindly, soft-spoken elegance. Whitham and Callaghan are earnest and endearing throughout. As the Hatter, Bolton has the most self-aware, Disney villain flourishes in a performance art rendition of a film noir gangster. Iconic!
Keyboard accompanist Tallan Alexander supplies narration and a provides the voice of Cat (A. Blaine), whose dialogue is presented in ASL—an especially well-integrated nod towards accessibility.
Blaine also directed this production, which conjures a fair amount of magic despite its bare-bones aesthetic. The costumes are understated yet clever, suggesting character in a pop of colour or tilt of a hat. Hailey Gardiner’s almost constant choreography is quite busy with gestures. I found it distracting at first, but it becomes oddly hypnotic—enhancing the performative nature of this heightened world and its characters.
NeverWonder: The Musical is rough around the edges, but undeniably genuine and purposeful. And it left me kinda misty-eyed.