One of the great things about Fringe festivals like the Windsor-Walkerville Fringe Festival is the experimentation both audiences and theatre folks get to experience. In the case of Red: The Untold Story of the Queen of Hearts, audiences get to see an early draft and the creation process behind an exciting and powerful new musical as it’s being written. For the producers and actors, it’s a chance to see the reactions of key scenes and segments.
Red is being written as a full-scale musical by 12-year-old composer Elise Holbrook of Windsor. At the Fringe festival, we were teased with a couple key scenes, mostly from the second act. It’s a unique and original story based on characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. Much of the production and acting/singing was provided by highly skilled actors from The Abridged Opera. Holbrook herself was part of the production as an ensemble cast member and performed some of music live on a keyboard.
I can’t wait to see what this turns into. Watching a 12-year-old create such a vibrant and emotional show is astounding. She’s highly focused on the Queen of Hearts in this one. It’s about her rise to the throne and the negative effects that newfound power has on her and the citizens of Wonderland. There are battles, love stories, deaths and even, of all things, a dramatic beheading.
Red is a big deal for Holbrook. You could easily she was intensely prepared for this moment and proudly recited the back story so audiences could follow along. Her music is intelligent, masterfully written and surprisingly mature for her age. Lyrically, the songs tell the story for the scene and work well with the melodies. Being there in the audience for Red felt special – it felt like we got a sneak peek into the mind and creative process of a young prodigy on the brink of her first big production. It must have felt similar to those that were lucky enough to see a young Mozart work on his first symphony and opera.
Although it’s not a complete musical, the Windsor-Walkerville Fringe Festival production of Red: The Untold Story of the Queen of Hearts is one of the highlights of this year’s festival.