When Anne Martinez was a child, no older than 5, her mother read a book to her each night. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was the title. Oh, the dreams that kid had. She’s still having them.
“I have always been fascinated by Lewis Carroll, the original Alice book and the sequel, Through the Looking- Glass, and my parents also bought me the VHS tape of the cartoon,” says Martinez, founder of the rock-opera outfit BBR and creator of Alice, A Steampunk Concert Fantasy, a show that opens February 17 for a series of six performances ending in July. Martinez hopes it can build an audience strong enough to support a five-show-per-week run either at the Hard Rock Hotel or another suitable venue.
For Martinez, an indefatigable singer currently performing in Jubilee!, the show is an awakening. For real. “I actually had trouble sleeping when I was a kid,” Martinez says, “and my parents bought me those books on tape. I always fell asleep to this story and that very relaxing voice.”
As an adult, Martinez has turned her childhood dreams into one of the city’s more adventurous productions. Alice is the steamy, rocking adaptation of the Carroll series as told through well-placed dialogue and a heavy dose of contemporary rock and pop classics. The show has far outgrown its original form, when a more standards-driven version of BBR (which originally was the acronym for a Blonde, a Brunette and a Redhead) debuted two years ago at Boulevard Theater on the Strip. Over time, Martinez and the troupe of Alice performers have showcased the production at T Spot at Tuscany Suites, Club Madrid at Sunset Station and, finally, Vinyl.
During that lengthy process, the production has experienced serious shifts in the band, the singers and especially the concept. “Honestly, what they’re going to see is nothing they have ever seen before, let alone in Las Vegas,” says Martinez, who not only conceived of the show and recruited its cast, but also shopped it to entertainment officials and negotiated the Hard Rock deal. “We wanted an adventure.”
Added to the cast for the run at Vinyl are a White Rabbit (Adolfo Barreto, who is also the makeup man) and a Cheshire Cat (LeMichael Curry, who will be the first male to sing in the production). A rotating lineup of Red Queens has been used through the history of the show. Up next is Brooke Brown of Vegas! The Show.
The music charts are crafted by David Perrico, late of Pin Up at the Stratosphere. A seasoned musician and composer, Perrico has worked with an array of greats, including Chuck Mangione, Natalie Cole and Donny & Marie. He spent six years touring with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, has taught jazz studies at UNLV, and even has a Cirque show (the ill-fated Viva Elvis at Aria) on his résumé. Perrico is backed by a band of ringers, a nine-piece mini-orchestra that reels off the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” A medley has been developed for the show at Vinyl, enveloping some Green Day and Iron Maiden.
But BBR is not merely putting on a rock concert. The choreography of the show’s four dancers is heavily emphasized, with Ryan Kelsey and Claudia Mitria—both of whom have worked extensively in stage productions on the Strip—working as co-directors. In these dance numbers, plates are angrily hurled about, women are lifted and spun, and the two singers—Martinez and newcomer Ashley Fuller of Jubilee!—crawl along the floor and smoke a hookah. In a tweak of Carroll-esque wordplay, Fuller’s character is Ecila. That’s Alice, backward, fitting for this show.
The performers look the part in this Alice, too, wrapped tightly in dark costumes designed by Vegas vets Sandra Huntsman and Jeffrey DeBarathy. The stage makeup is glittery and sharply shaded, with the entire cast made up as if they are wearing masks.
It’s little wonder Martinez has had a difficult time describing what Alice is all about. She understands it’s a show that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated, and such Vegas luminaries as Lon Bronson—who after a BBR show at T Spot said the show is the best small-showroom production he has seen in Las Vegas in 25 years—have taken notice. “It’s a fantasy that breaks every theatrical rule you can break,” Martinez says. “All we want the audience to do is let go, and fall down the rabbit hole with us.”
Alice, A Steampunk Concert Fantasy February 17, March 18, April 1, May 20, June 17, July 15, 10 p.m., $30. Vinyl, 702-693-5000.