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Through the looking glass to Tampa

New plays are born all over the United States, but new musicals -- particularly those with Broadway aspirations (and face it, almost all of them fit that category) -- can have a tougher time finding a place to incubate.  They have larger creative teams, tend to have larger casts and are more expensive to produce than most plays.  Florida has rarely been a proving ground for new musicals, but the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and its president Judith Lisi are aiming to change all that something called the Broadway Genesis Project and a $3 million production of Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure.

Janet Dacal in recording studio - photo by Jeremy RobertsWith a score by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Jack Murphy, and a book by Murphy and director Gregory Boyd, the musical follows a contemporary, grown-up Alice into a New York Wonderland searching for her young daughter.  Its star is South Florida girl-turned-Broadway star Janet Dacal, whose most recent gig was in the world premiere of the Tony Award-winning In the Heights on Broadway.

Dacal, who graduated from Coral Park High School and Florida International University, isn't the only Wonderland talent with South Florida ties.  Wildhorn, who had three musicals running on Broadway 10 years ago (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War), went to Hollywood Hills High School and attended the University of Miami before moving to California.

As with his other shows, Wildhorn has already released a concept recording of Wonderland: Alice's New Musical.  It features Dacal on several cuts, along with fellow cast members Jose Llana, Darren Ritchie, Nikki Snelson and Karen Mason, the Broadway-cabaret veteran who plays the Queen of Hearts. You can hear the music or buy the CD at the show's web site.

And, of course, if you're up for a road trip, you can catch the show before it moves on to Houston's Alley Theatre (where Boyd is the artistic director) and, just maybe, to Broadway.

Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure previews at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center Nov. 24-Dec. 4, then has a gala opening Dec. 5.  It will run through Jan. 3, then play the Alley Jan. 15-Feb. 14.  Performances in Tampa are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.  Preview tickets range from $23.50 to $52.50, and gala tickets are $250-$450.  Regular ticket prices -- $31.50-$72.50 -- kick in on Dec. 6.

For information, call 1-800-955-1045 or check out that Wonderland web site.