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Alice by Heart
Alice by heart.jpeg
Music Duncan Sheik
Lyrics Steven Sater
Book Steven Sater with Jessie Nelson
Basis Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Productions 2019 Off-Broadway

Alice by Heart is a musical with music by Duncan Sheik, lyrics by Steven Sater, and a book by Sater with Jessie Nelson. The musical is inspired by Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and was originally presented by London's Royal National Theatre in 2012.

Plot overview

The musical takes place in 1941, in the debris after the London Blitz of World War II. The life of teen Alice Spencer is disrupted, as she and her best friend Alfred are forced to take shelter in a London underground tube station. However, Alfred, suffering from tuberculosis, is quarantined ("West of Words"). Alice urges him to escape with her into their cherished book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and travel down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. Nurse Cross, who is in charge of keeping everyone safe, rips Alice's book as a punishment for visiting Alfred, despite his quarantine. Alice becomes very defiant and declares she knows it "by heart" and will read to him anyway. The people hiding in the shelter slowly change into some of the book's characters, and Alfred himself changes into the White Rabbit ("Down the Hole"). During her time in Wonderland, Alice changes parts of the story, such as spending too much time with the White Rabbit and forgetting Chapter 3. She receives advice from the Cheshire Cat; gets teased by not one, but two, Caterpillars ("Chillin' the Regrets"); dances the Lobster Quadrille with the White Rabbit ("Those Long Eyes"); gets berated for growing up too fast by the Duchess; plays croquet with the Queen of Hearts ("Manage Your Flamingo") and other slight twists on scenes from Alice in Wonderland. Alfred tires of being the White Rabbit and wants to finish his life as himself, in the bunker with Alice, so he attempts to get her to finish the story early by taunting her as the March Hare. She tells him she hates him however before she can apologise he gets taken to ward D ("Sick to Death of Alice-ness"). During the trial ("Isn't It a Trial"/"Do You Think We Think You're Alice?"), Alice stands up for herself, and finally, Alfred joins her. With the help of Tabatha as the Cheshire Cat, they break out of Wonderland and back into the bunker ("I've Shrunk Enough"). Alfred and Alice then admit their feelings for each other before Alfred dies ("Afternoon"). The show ends with Alice finally accepting Alfred's death, and trying to be optimistic about life with everyone else in the bunker ("Winter Blooms").


Alice by Heart was originally commissioned by London's Royal National Theatre in 2012, and was performed by youth companies around the U.K. IT was performed at the National's Lyttelton Theatre by Nottingham-based youth theatre group Flying High on June 25, 2012.[1] The musical was developed as a workshop by Theatre Aspen (Aspen, Colorado) in July 2014. The musical received an additional workshop by MCC Theater in December 2015. New York Stage and Film & Vassar at the Powerhouse Theater presented a workshop production in July 2018. Director Jessie Nelson noted: “We’re attempting to explore the power of a book and what the story has meant to this girl...”

The musical made its Off-Broadway premiere at the Newman Mills Theatre at the Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space in January 2019, with an official opening on February 26, for a limited run until April 7, 2019.


The world premiere production of Alice by Heart was announced on March 21, 2018 as part of MCC's inaugural season in its new permanent two-venue off-Broadway home. Casting was announced on October 23. The production opened Off-Broadway on February 26, 2019 at the MCC Theater, following previews from January 30, with the closing set for April 7. The closing date was extended from March 31. It is directed by Jessie Nelson with choreography by Rick and Jeff Kuperman, sets by Edward Pierce, costumes by Paloma Young and lighting by Bradley King.

Musical numbers


  • "West of Words" – Alice, Alfred, Tabatha & Company
  • "Down the Hole" – Company
  • "Still" – Alice & White Rabbit
  • "Chillin' the Regrets" – Caterpillars, Alice & Company
  • "The Key Is" – Alice, White Rabbit, Caterpillars & Company
  • "So" – Magpie, Eaglet, Duck, Canary, Dodo & Pigeon°
  • "Those Long Eyes" – Cheshire Cat, Alice & White Rabbit
  • "Manage Your Flamingo" – Duchess & Company
  • "Sick to Death of Alice-ness" – Mad Hatter, March Hare, Dormouse & Alice
  • "Brillig Braelig" – Jabberwocky, Alice & Company
  • "Some Things Fall Away" – Cheshire Cat
  • "Your Shell of Grief" – Mock Turtles & Alice
  • "Another Room in Your Head" – Alfred, Alice & Company
  • "Isn't It a Trial?" – Queen of Hearts & Company
  • "Do You Think We Think You're Alice?" – Company
  • "I've Shrunk Enough" – Alice & Company
  • "Still (Reprise)" – Alfred & Alice°
  • "Afternoon" – Alice, Alfred & Company
  • "Winter Blooms" – Alice, Cheshire Cat & Company
  • "Down the Hole (Reprise)" – Company°

°Not included in the Original Cast Recording

Characters and original cast

Character Theatre Aspen Workshop
Vassar Workshop
Off Broadway
Dormouse/Nigel/Eaglet/Knave of Clubs Riley Costello Zachary Infante
Dodgy/Duchess/Dodo/Mock Turtle Noah Galvin
Alice Spencer/Alice Molly Gordon
Mad Hatter/Harold Pudding/ Mock Turtle/Pigeon/Knave of Spades Andrew Mueller Alex Brightman Wesley Taylor
Clarissa/Canary/Queen of Diamonds/ Mock Turtle Stephanie Hsu Ashley Park Megan Masako Haley Catherine Ricafort
White Rabbit/Alfred Hallam/March Hare Mike Faist Ben Platt J. Quinton Johnson Colton Ryan
King of Hearts/Dr Butridge/Jabberwocky/Duck/Mock Turtle Marrick Smith David Patrick Kelly Don Stephenson Andrew Kober
Caterpillar/Angus/Knave of Hearts Rodney Ingram Anthony Ramos Heath Saunders
Cheshire Cat/Tabatha/Caterpillar 2 Phillipa Soo Emmy Raver-Lampman Gizel Jimenez - Queen of Hearts/Red Cross Nurse/Magpie Nathaly Lopez / Sydney Shepherd Mary Testa Lesli Margherita Grace McLean
  • Kim Blanck portrayed the Cheshire Cat in the last shows in MCC when Nkeki left to play Tina Turner in the West End.

Awards and honors

Original Off-Broadway production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Choreographer Rick and Jeff Kuperman Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Paloma Young Nominated
Lucille Lortel Awards Outstanding Choreographer Rick and Jeff Kuperman Won
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Heath Saunders Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Paloma Young Won
Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography Outstanding Choreography Rick and Jeff Kuperman Won
Outstanding Male Dancer Zachary Downer Nominated
Wesley Taylor Won
Outstanding Female Dancer Mia DiLena Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble MCC Theatre Nominated


An original cast recording was released through Sh-K-Boom Records on June 28, 2019. It peaked at number 5 on the US Cast Albums chart.


A novelization of the same name by Sater was published on February 4, 2020.

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