Arts and Entertainment

Still Wondering in Wonderland

A review of Soph-Frosh SING!.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Cover Image
By The Photo Department

“So the little girl got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well she might, what a wonderful dream Wonderland had been...”

Coordinated by sophomore Alec Shafran and produced by sophomores Avni Garg and Ella Krechmer and freshmen Inour Awad and Lianne Ohayon, SophFrosh SING’s Wonderland-themed performance captures a fantastical land full of whimsy. Though their performance was far from perfect, the underclassmen displayed valiant effort and gave the audience a glimpse of the vast array of talent that with more experience, will prove to be unstoppable in years to come.

The show opens with a meta breaking of the fourth wall. A hand appears through the gap between the closed curtains. A timid and clumsy voice flutters out from behind. Two figures then emerge onto the stage, introducing themselves as the Tweedledee (Cynthia Tan) and Tweedledum (Chloe Bocarra), who serve as the narrators and comedic relief of the otherwise too earnest plot. They transition to a scene of an elderly man (Oliver Hollman) recounting a story to a little girl tucked into a bed that is confusingly faced away from the audience—who, we later learn, is Alice (Lara Ongan). She nags her grandpa to tell her how to get to the mythical Wonderland, to which he jokingly responds, “If you sleep at your bedtime!” And just before Alice falls asleep, he gives her a beautiful pendant necklace, which will ultimately allow her to reconnect with her grandmother and the Spades royalty lineage.

When Alice wakes up from a nightmare, she finds herself in—you guessed it—Wonderland. She is surrounded by a breathtaking set. The canvas backdrop (still beautiful despite being upside-down) displays a magnificent scene reminiscent of Lewis Caroll’s own descriptions. Two rows of tall topiaries create a meandering path into the distance, and giant red polka-dotted mushrooms stem from a lush green meadow underneath a pink sky.

A fresh face on stage, Alice delivers and cements her sweet stage presence as soon as she breaks into SophFrosh's rendition of “Mr. Blue Sky,” her voice sweet and penetrative and setting high expectations for what is to come. However, the strong opening sequence suffers from the chorus’ lack of energy and rather unpleasing umbrella frolicking.

As a puzzled Alice tries to understand the situation, we are introduced to an anthropomorphic White Rabbit (Michael Borvzuk), Cheshire Cat (Samanatha Farrow), the Mad Hatter (Dr. Zachary Berman/Vishwaa Sofat), and a fairy named Egg (Lea Espiov). The modern dance crew comes on stage, whose calm, soothing presence accentuates the sweetness and whim of Wonderland. Then, security agents, whose names are a nod to last year’s SophFrosh SING! characters Belle and Montgomery, appear on stage. They invite Alice to a croquet match (which is hilariously pronounced cro-ket) with the Queens of Wonderland, to which she happily agrees.

The scene switches to a garden turned croquet court, with four elegant thrones decorated with rich swirls lining the back of the stage. The Queen of Clubs (Michelle Zhang), Hearts (Lucy Murphy), and Diamonds (Leah D'Silva) appear, each dressed in a distinctive style from Goth skater girl to elegant 19th century glamour. Four beautiful life-size poker cards representative of the different queens hang from the top of the stage, but with the Spades card ominously crossed out. A sequence of showcases by the Latin and Hip-Hop crews accompanies two solos by the Queens of Diamonds and Clubs respectively, whose impressive talent sets the stage for an amazing first half.

The queens unsubtly hint at a fourth queen, the Queen of Spades (Ashley Choi), who has been imprisoned for breaking the one single rule of Wonderland, which seems quite Fight Club-esque: the first rule of Wonderland is not to talk about Wonderland! A perplexed Alice soon decides to help Egg rescue the Queen of Spades after hearing cries for help while the rest of the cast freezes on stage or continues unaware. However, the queens’ men capture the duo and throw them in jail.

While the first half of the performance sets the stage for a respectably strong finish, the second half falls short of delivering. When Cheshire and White Rabbit execute their plans to rid Wonderland of the Spade descendant, the attempted love line between Egg and White Rabbit is heavily underdeveloped. After White Rabbit tricks Alice into following him to the dangerous Edge of Wonderland, Cheshire is left alone on stage with her well-integrated tap posse. Despite Chesire's strong stage presence and undeniable sass, her monologue is muddled and rushed, taking away from the overall clarity of the plot. In addition, the chorus is awkwardly dispersed across the stage and barely audible past the first row. However, the four-man tap crew offers a lively, refreshing performance with playful poses and formations that lighten the mood and invigorate the audience.

Upon reuniting with the Queen of Spades—later revealed to be her grandmother—Alice points out that both her and her grandmother’s pendants are glowing. The color changing lights on stage mirror this moment, a minor, yet effective touch. However, the awkward placement of Alice and the Queen of Spades in the corner of the stage during the flow crew’s performance, along with flow's numerous fumbles, detract from the magical atmosphere. The already confusing plot becomes even more perplexing as the inaudible song lyrics make it impossible for the audience to learn any information about the plot.

Though the audience never learns how or why, Egg is somehow able to locate the Edge of Wonderland and lead the three queens to Alice and the Queen of Spades. Agents Belle and Montgomery make yet another appearance with their disappointingly flimsy swords, a failed attempt to add comedic relief. However, one of the highlights comes from a beautiful acapella rendition of “Tonight You Belong To Me” by Choi, Esipov, and Ongan, in a celebration of love and reunion. The acapella, however, abruptly concludes just as the audience gets encapsulated by the impressive harmonies and soothing melodies.

Perhaps the biggest hole of the plot is how Alice and the Queen of Spades manage to escape from the cage: magic and whim must have their limitations, right? As we scratch our heads trying to understand the plot, , the Queen of Spades announces her resignation as queen and passes the crown to Egg, who has developed a newfound sense of confidence.

The plot comes full circle as we return to Alice’s bedroom, with her grandfather shocked to find his wife back from Wonderland. The sweet embrace between Alice's grandparents, despite being clichè, melts the hearts of everyone in the audience. Alice concludes by reflecting on her experiences in Wonderland, saying, “There are more important things in life than school,” a particularly significant comment given the audience of Stuyvesant students, faculty, and parents.

Overall, SophFrosh SING! had frequent bobbles and suffered from a lack of meaningful props and technical elements to accentuate the undoubtedly very talented cast. The script was underdeveloped and contained many loose ends. Additionally, Soph-Frosh failed to capitalize on the wide array of talented singers they had, such as Ongan’s spectacular belting abilities, Esipov’s smooth alto runs, and Farrow’s rasp and spunk. Despite being an unpolished diamond in the rough, Wonderland takes the audience back to the whims of our childhoods and reminds us all of the importance of friendship, family, and big dreams.