Written by Jaimz Dillman
Photos by Jaimz Dillman & Ellie Logan
Immersive experiences have been on the steady rise this summer tempting audiences to join in for something outside of the usual bar visit. One such topsy turvy night at The Alice (brought to us by explorehidden.com) was just this-- an escape from the hot Orlando weather and a trip down the rabbit hole.
Located in the lobby of a nondescript building just off of downtown, attendees are instructed to wait in the lobby until the Hatter invites them in. Even though this is considered a pop up event, this installment has been here- taking over a former cafe space- for a few months now with an added extension through September.
As we were led to our tables we couldn't help but smile at the whimsy created by the "wonder"ful decor. A large tree is set in the middle of the room full of flowers, small signs, birdhouses, and more. Upside down parasols hang through the ceiling and there are many photo op spots on various sides of the room including a grinning Cheshire cat on a flower wall and another space topped with his famous phrase. "We're all mad here."
Once seated at our pretty patio-style table set with tea cups and adornments one of the many scurrying characters gives us a menu for additional drinks available to order in case the 3 included in your ticket aren't quite enough for you. The price per person of $47 gets you 3 cocktails, an adorable cookie (if not diabetes-level sweet) aptly decorated with "Eat Me", a riddle adventure with the characters of the event, and all the selfies you can take.
Our welcome shooter was yummy creamsicle style topped with coconut whipped cream. We were off to a promising start. Our table-mates also opted to add-on a couple extra steaming tea pots of mixed beverages ($25 each) and they both arrived with dry ice fog for a fun presentation. We were especially impressed at how the dry ice was kept separate, and safe, from us in darling stir sticks. Little thing, but the devil is in the details, right?
Although Alice wasn't quite present (you'll see in the pictures) her storybook friends made sure to keep our 75-minute adventure moving right along. Doing their best to speak in sing-song accents and engaging with each group, they weren't perfect but still fun and fit the theme well. The doormouse helped serve beverages, the Hatter explained how things would run. And the white rabbit assigned everyone with cards which would come into play later.
For our second round, we were tasked with solving riddles to gather the ingredients for your very adult tea. This got everyone up to move throughout the room as challenges were hidden around and within the decor. With the sold out crowd, we all were quickly listening to each other to figure out our clues and get back to start mixing. (During this time, a single attendee was pulled aside and added to the story to be revealed later in the night.) Your drink could vary in taste depending on the amounts of each ingredient you chose to add. We poured everything in and created a pleasantly mild vanilla sort of concoction.
The knave and Queen of Hearts made their rounds as it was discovered someone had stolen one of her tarts! Remember that singled- out someone? Yep! It was me!! I ate the tart and was very happy to give up my card as that's how the Queen collected her heads. A few others lost their heads, too, for being accused as accomplices.
After discovering the thief we were all able to paint the roses red- or at least try. Our last cocktail was topped with a sweet egg cream foam. We were given red syrup to dip paint brushes in and encouraged to do our best painting of a rose on the foam. The best in the room would receive a prize from her majesty herself. Creatives across from us won with a painting telling the story of a girl who lost her head. Although not a rose, the Queen was inspired and presented the winners their awarded shot.
As the evening wrapped up we were reminded to tip the staff if we enjoyed ourselves- various digital addresses were provided as well as a cash box. We had plenty of time to take those ever important social media photos and talked to the actresses as they cleaned up for the night.
This production is from a company based in Australia although all of the staff are local. They take turns playing all the characters through the run so you may see a different lineup depending on their schedule. They also offer an alcohol-free family-friendly event on Saturday afternoons. As mentioned above, they've already extended dates and added shows so it's been very well received. The smaller size of the room kept the shows intimate with plenty of attention from each performer and service was well done. I've been to a few different experiences that have come through town and this one has been the best by far. Maybe because of the more personal nature. Maybe because of the whimsy associated with a children's story based on a make believe land. Maybe because the run is longer than just a couple-night hit and run. Any which way, my friends and I enjoyed the playfulness and actual immersive theater.
For tickets and more information please click HERE