It only lasted two months on Broadway, but the cast of the new musical Wonderland was never without water-cooler material. Actors of the show, based on Lewis Carroll’s characters, were handed a drastically revamped script just weeks before preview performances began. The show opened to blushingly bad reviews. The production was completely shut out of the Tony Award nominations, which led to a closing notice. Then during the show’s final performance on May 15—finally some good news—Darren Ritchie proposed to his co-star Janet Dacal during the curtain call. The engagement was caught on YouTube and set fans’ hearts and the Internet ablaze.
Kate Shindle played the Mad Hatter, re-imagined as a villain who represents Alice’s inner demons. Clad in dominatrix-style costumes by Susan Hilferty, Shindle’s image was used in much of the show’s advertising and promotional materials. The former Miss America (1998) sat down with Stage Rush to discuss Wonderland’s rocky run, the much-talked-about proposal, and blowing out her vocal chords for the final performance.
It seems like Darren Ritchie’s proposal to Janet Dacal during the final curtain call closed the Wonderland experience for everyone on an unexpected high note.
I was really glad to have something to celebrate. I was really bummed that the show was closing. As [the show] evolved, I started to wish it was going in a different direction. But at the end of the day, my job as an actor is to look at the words on the page and try to make them work.
Is it difficult to act in a show where the material isn’t working?
In previews, there were times when sections had been rewritten, but they weren’t there yet. There’s an urge to turn to the audience and be like, ‘Guys, I know you know this doesn’t work yet. But I think it’s going to work.’ Yet we’re obliged as actors not to comment on it or wink at the audience. You have to commit to the world. Sometimes you might think something’s not going to work, but if you commit to it enough, sometimes you figure out how to make it work and it becomes your favorite thing in the show.
VIDEO: Kate Shindle on the surprise proposal of Darren Ritchie to Janet Dacal at the final performance of Wonderland.