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Theatrical Adaptations

Although there have been many theatrical adaptations of Alice over the years, there aren't very many famous ones. Many of the visual effects (i.e. Alice growing and shrinking, the Cheshire Cat disappearing) are difficult to achieve on stage. However, a few versions managed to survive as beloved and endearing interpretations of Carroll's classic. Below you can read about and watch clips from a few of the more prominent adaptations.


1886 Adaptation posterAlice in Wonderland (1886)

This musical pantomime was the first theatrical adaptation of Alice, just a few years after the books’ publication.  This is the only play version that Lewis Carroll actually saw and he even collaborated a small amount with the playwright, Henry Saville Clark (1841-1893).  The play was received well by audiences and was revived 10 times before 1927. The Theatre wrote this review in 1886: "Alice in Wonderland will not appeal to the children alone. ... Mr. Savile Clark has done wonders. ... The play is beautifully mounted, and splendidly acted, Miss Phœbe Carlo being very successful as the little heroine... she played in a delightful and thoroughly artistic fashion, and in this respect she was closely followed by a tiny mite, Miss Dorothy D'Alcort, who plays first the Dormouse. ... Mr. Edgar Bruce, Mr. Walter Slaughter (who has written some charming music for the piece), and Mr. Savile Clark, all deserve unstinted praise." (Wikipedia)


Alice in Wonderland (1969)

The Manhattabn Project, under the direction of Andre Gregory staged a highly imaginative and energetic adaptation of Alice in Wonderland which won several awards in 1971. The script is a mixture of both Wonderland and Looking Glass and interprets the story with an emphasis on physical acting, like playground games and using actors as both characters and scenery. Andre Gregory wrote. "Our production concept might be said to be this: How would a group of children limited to a padded cell create an entire world for Alice in Wonderland." (44)

Read More about the Manhattan Project on Wikipedia

Alice in Wonderland (1982 play still1932/1983)


Florida Friebus and Eva Le Gallienne wrote the script for this Broadway musical which originally debuted in 1932.  Revived and filmed in 1983, this Alice adaptation relies heavily on the Tenniel “look,” mirroring sets and costumes closely to his drawings. Interestingly, the 1983 revival frames the play within the context of actors putting on “Alice in Wonderland,” so that the action of the play is actually a dream which the actress playing Alice dreams in order to overcome her stage fright.  (Read More)


The entire play


Cast: Richard Burton, Colleen Dewhurst, Kate Burton, Donald O'Connor, Nathan Lane, Fritz Weaver, Maureen Stapleton
Written by: Lewis Carroll; Florida Friebus and Eva Le Gallienne
Music by: Richard Addinsell and Jonathan Tunick
Directed by: Kirk Browning
Produced by: Ann Blumenthal
Executive Producer: Jac Venza


Broadway Digital Archive
Internet Broadway Database


1981 play posterAlice at the Palace (1981)


This "music hall" version of Alice and Looking Glass was adapted for television from Elizabeth Swados’ Joseph Papp/New York Shakespeare Festival production entitled “Alice in Concert” for which Swados also composed the score, adapted the book and directed for the stage. Starring Meryl Streep and featuring Debbie Allen and Betty Aberlin, "Alice At The Palace" is an entertaining and shrewdly conceived retelling of the Carroll classics with all of the beloved characters --from the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat to the Queen of Hearts-- given a unique twist by the witty and charming performances of an accomplished theatrical ensemble. "Alice At The Palace" was originally broadcast as part of NBC-TV’s "Project Peacock" series in 1982. (Broadway Archive) This version perhaps best captures the fun and games of Carroll’s original, if perhaps taking it too far out of the nineteenth century. Below you can watch a few clips from the filmed production, including Alice and the Caterpillar, the Duchess' Kitchen, Alice and the Cheshire Cat, and the Mad Tea Party.


Alice and the Caterpillar


"Pig and Pepper"


Alice and the Cheshire Cat


The Mad Tea Party


Cast: Meryl Streep, Betty Aberlin, Debbie Allen, Michael Jeter, Mark Linn-Baker, Stuart Baker-Bergen, Richard Cox, Shelia Dabney, Rodney Hudson, Charles Lanyer, Kathryn Morath, Deborah Rush
Written by: Elizabeth Swados
Directed by: Emile Ardolino
Produced by: Joseph Papp


Inernet Movie Database
Broadway Digital Archive



Alice on the Underground PosterAlice on the Underground (2004)

This 2004 modern musical gives Alice a new spin, placing her in a modern context, on a subway train. The role of Alice was written by Chris Bond and Paula Rees for Emma Cambridge, who, as an actress with Downs Syndrome, gives the character a new dimension of lostness and loneliness. Many of the lyrics are very poignantly decry a society in which love is lost, where no one means what they say or say what they mean. (Irja Uusitalo)


Still shot from Alice on the Underground


Cast: Emma Cambridge, Rebecca Chapman, Edwin Din, Tommy Doyle, Emily Gardner, Liz Kitchen, Jane Milligan, Michael Offei, Wendy Parkin, Philip Reed
Director: Chris Bond
Designer: Rodney Ford
Musical Director: Jo Collins
Lighting: Chris Jaeger
Sound: Whizz
Choreographer: Emily Gardner



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