Alice on the Stage

Magic Lantern from 1890

Magic Lantern from 1890

If you missed the exhibit on Alice in Wonderland at the Morgan Library, don’t despair – there’s lots more going on during this 150th anniversary.   Head over to the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center  for a charming exhibit on theatre, music and dance inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic tale. 

One of the first things you’ll see is a magic lantern, a slide projector of the kind Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) would have used narrating exhibits for schoolchildren. This particular one, dating from 1890 has 24 slides, some with Tenniel’s original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.

Dodgson was also an avid theatre goer, and counted many actors and actresses among his friends, so Alice’s leap to the stage was quite natural.

Alice in Wonderland first appeared as a theatrical production in 1866 in London.  Written by Henry Saville Clark and with songs by Walter Slaughter, it was the hit of the Christmas season. The production was revived many times, and in the exhibit you’ll find posters and photos from the various productions, beginning in 1889.  You’ll also find published scripts of the Alice stories from 1880 and 1882 with non-Tenniel drawings. 

Mad Hatter marionette by Tony Sarg

Mad Hatter marionette by Tony Sarg

Alice was a hit on Broadway – a full production of Alice in Wonderland opened in 1915 – in the exhibit you’ll find some fabulous photos from the many staged versions that followed.  Irving Berlin wrote Alice-themed songs for The Century Girl, a 1916 revue, and for the 1924 Music Box revue. Tony Sarg even created a marionette production of Alice in 1930. 

You’ll find photos and programs documenting some of the more notable theatrical versions of the Alice stories such as Eva La Gallienne’s 1932 production which has been revived three times on Broadway (no mean feat); André Gregory’s experimental version in 1970; and Elizabeth Swados’  1982 “Alice at the Palace” starring Meryl Streep. You’ll find photos and programs documenting these productions.

The exhibit also displays album covers of recordings from various stage productions including the 1944 adaptation whose star was none other than Ginger Rogers, as well as a boxed set of readings of Alice in Wonderland made by Cyril Richard in 1957, and one by Christopher Plummer in 1985.

Alice also inspired major orchestral pieces and symphonies, such as the 1923 “Through the Looking Glass Suite for Orchestra” by Deems Taylor, and “Alice Symphony” by David Del Tredici.

Throughout the exhibit are listening stations, where you can hear songs from various productions.  My all time favorite has to be “Will You Walk A Little Faster” – if that’s not the ultimate NYC theme song, I don’t know what is.

The exhibit runs until January 16, 2016, but don’t wait until next year to see it.  The Library also has several events around this exhibit, such as a screening of the 1988 film Alice, directed by Jan Svankmajer on October 27th, and spoken word performances inspired by Alice in Wonderland on November 19th.  For more information, visit the Library’s website.  

Sinatra, An American Icon; NYP Library for the Performing Arts

If you’re a fan of Ol’ Blue Eyes, be sure to get over to the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, to see the wonderful exhibition they’ve assembled to commemorate the Sinatra centennial.  With photos, recordings, correspondence, art work and memorabilia, it’s a great place to fall in love all over again  (or maybe for the first time) with “The Voice.”  Be prepared to spend a bit of time here; not only did Sinatra have a long career encompassing many bands (Tommy Dorsey, Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones,to name a few), he also acted in a number of films. I found myself periodically spending time listening to recordings or watching clips of his performances; you get a really good sense of how huge a phenomenon he was.  The exhibition runs through September 4th; during June, they are showing films such as “High Society” and “Pal Joey” that featured Sinatra.  More information here     This exhibit is FREE and continues to September 4.

The Library for the Performing Arts has a wide range of talks, films and performances;  you can find a full listing on their events page