Some things can be difficult to classify, and Wonderland Escapades: A Musical Dream is one of those things. With music and lyrics by Gloria V. Russell and keyboards and arrangement by Maria Russell, Wonderland Escapades is a children’s CD that isn’t exactly a children’s CD.
When I first listened to Wonderland Escapades, it reminded me of musical theater performed by classically-trained voices (Shelley Martinsen and Dan Frank). Many of the cuts are instrumental, sounding like they were composed for dance numbers. With this amalgam being offered as kidtunes, I needed to do a little research.
The first thing discovered is that Shelley Martinsen and Dan Frank are singers with the Nevada Opera Theatre. The music and lyrics were written by a mom (Gloria V. Russell) for her child (Maria Russell). They were originally conceived for a ballet.
According to Maria Russell, “About five years ago, my mom and I started talking about these songs and thought they might make a very good family and children’s recording project. We started reviving some of the songs and made them more upbeat and contemporary.” In the process they transformed the numbers appropriately for a musical theatre project. Plans for Wonderland Escapades include a stage production—the script has already been written.
Since Wonderland Escapades is based on Alice in Wonderland, adults in western countries will be familiar with the story to some degree. Brief liner notes explain the setting and action of each track on the CD, which is broken down into three acts, each including several songs and scenes.
Wonderland Escapades, is stylistically very different from most kidtunes being released currently. Children who are accustomed to pop, rock, country, and folk sounds are in for a new experience. The arrangements are eclectic, weaving a variety of genres together to produce a cohesive project. The songs, both instrumental and vocal, are very energetic, capturing the essence of Alice in Wonderland.
In the world of children’s music, Wonderland Escapades stands apart. A stage production is easily imagined when listening to its lively numbers.