Happy Holidays!

a kate west greeting
from Nordstrom's Santa Anita Mall
Surprise! Xmas Flash Mob

Brought to you by All Saints Episcopal Choir, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Pasadena Presbyterian Church Kirk Choir, Pasadena Master Chorale and many others! Read more!

Staying Awake During the Night Shift

By Kate West

(originally published December 2010 on workingworld.com)

What you need to do:

·      Get quality sleep
·      Maintain quality lifestyle
·      Exercise and eat right

It’s been a rough year and you are very, very tired of looking for work and hearing about rough it is out there. You figure you’ll do just about anything to start working again and start paying some bills. Then just after you hang up on your last credit collector, you finally get terrific news – you’re hired! But the catch is, it’s the night shift. Ugh. So now what?

Having just started my very first night shift, I can attest that it's not easy to transition into the night world. The rest of the world lives in the daytime and you’re busy counting sheep then. There may be a few die-hard party friends who are up for a drink when you get off work, but you might not be. So you’ll have to adjust your lifestyle.

For one thing, make sure you have quiet uninterrupted sleep in a dark room. Get heavier curtains and earplugs if you have to. Turn off the cell phone.

To keep up your energy and avoid that jet-lag feeling from all odd hours, try to eat healthy and squeeze in regular exercise. Vitamins and antioxidants are always a great idea and especially helpful during tough shifts. Make sure you eat at on a consistent schedule, the way you would during the day so that you aren’t eating right before you go to sleep. Eat before your shift starts, with a small meal during break and then stop. Caffeine is fine towards the earlier part of your night, but cut back halfway through so it won’t keep you up at night. Work in a little aerobics (or whatever turns you on) soon after waking. It will make all the difference in the world.

It’s also important to get some decompression time when you come home, just like on a normal shift. Your mind and body both have to wind down from job stress so allow yourself to do this for at least an hour before trying to sleep, if you can. Watch some funny t.v. or read a graphic novel. Save the hardcore errands for whatever daytime you have. You’ll have to decide when the best time to work in time on that screenplay might be.

Cheer up, it’s not all bad! There are perks to this new job, of course. The commute will be much easier and who doesn’t want that, as a traffic-harried Angelino? That saves you on a masseuse and therapist right there.

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Peter Pan 360

a kate west review
by J.M. Barrie
directed by Ben Harrison
at the Orange County Performing Arts Center
600 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
running October 3, 2010 - EXTENDED
contact 714-556-2122 or http://www.peterpantheshow.com

"Peter Pan" is the beloved children's story about the boy who never grows up, captured on film and in a theme park ride by Walt Disney himself. This version, however, is the straight play adaptation (Tanya Ronder) of J.M. Barrie's famous novel. The British are now here and bring the 360 take from Kensington Gardens to major U.S. cities, guaranteed to succeed from the first mention on the recent PBS special coverage (check your local public television listings).

In a big-top tent à la Cirque de Soleil, the Peter Pan audience is surrounded by multimedia projections depicting lush scenery from the story. A moveable set in the center transports us back and forth from London to Never Never Land and back again. Essentially, the Darling family household is turned upside down when Peter Pan whisks in by moonlight and flies off with the three children, Wendy, John and Michael. Wendy, the oldest, becomes mother to the Lost Boys (Pan's rag-tag crew), while Peter's sidekick sprite Tinkerbell tries everything to sabotage this plan. The notorious pirate Captain Hook stalks them all and many adventures await the children before they remember they have parents and return to England. Our adventure lies in marveling at the CGI (computer-generated images) projections and the flying actors - quite a spectacle, indeed. And it sure does look like fun.

In this performance, Ciaran Joyce is Peter Pan to Beth Triffon's Wendy. Both of them show heartfelt joy (and great faith in the backstage crew) as they swing above us, cavorting and spinning. Emily Yetter is especially delightful as the ill-tempered Tinkerbell and her hilarious tantrum furies cannot be more perfect (plus she's simply adorable in her dirt-smeared little fairy girl outfit). Andrew Gruen and Elijah Trichon, as Wendy's brothers, fly as well and have a finely choreographed underwater scene involving mermaids. Heidi Buehler has a nice turn dancing as the captive Indian princess Tigerlilly and Jonathan Hyde is a gloriously villainous Captain Hook (and Mr. Darling), booming out threats and trembling at a fantastically constructed crocodile craving his flesh.

The animals in this production, Nana the nanny-dog and the famous crocodile, are human-operated puppets, the latter driven by two men on wheels. Their design is quite innovative and fun, given the amount of "oohs and ahs" from the kid spectators. The whole performance will keep your child wide-eyed, in awe. There is a lot to look at, including rowdy pirates and a chance to help Tinkerbell. And you will itch to fly yourself (trapeze schools may well regain popularity).

What you will take away most however, is that growing up is inevitable. We all (most of us, at any rate) leave our childhood behind and take on adult responsibilities in order to become well-rounded individuals. Peter Pan reminds us of our reckless youth and that the spirit of magic remains in a land close by that you can revisit once in a while, or at least encourage your children to go to. The boy who lost his shadow will never understand that you aged and what a real kiss means. He is a silly boy who plays hard and makes you laugh and he is an important part of your childhood, but we can't stay in Never Never Land forever. Eventually the story ends. But not until you've had the time of your life. And in 360 no less.

Read the original:
Peter Pan (100th Anniversary Edition) Read more!

Much Ado About Nothing

a kate west review

by William Shakespeare
directed by Ben Donenberg
songs by Lyle Lovett (Dave Frischberg, Brian Joseph, Wendy Waldman,
Sara & Sean Watkins)
presented by The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles
at the Kirk Douglas Theatre/Center Theatre Group
9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City 90232
contact 213-972-7231 or 213-628-2772
running December 1-19, 2010

You don't think normally of Lyle Lovett when you think of Shakespeare (at least most of us don't). But you can see works by both this month in Culver City at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. This Center Theatre Group's production of "Much Ado About Nothing" also features Tom Irwin ("My So-Called Life") and Helen Hunt ("Mad About You"). The saucy tale takes place in a California vineyard, lustily brought to colorful life by Set Designer Douglas Rogers. Love and misunderstandings ensue, set to the tune of Lovett's laid back musicianship and Brian Joseph's musical direction.

The essential story is of Benedick (Irwin) and Beatrice (Hunt), two would-be lovers who initially hate each other (sound familiar, Hollywood?) You can guess the rest. In the meantime, cousin Hero (Grace Gummer) has to prove her virtue, in spite of the evil Don John (Stephen Root, "Newsradio"), Boracio (Chris Butler) and her distrusting finance Claudio (Ramon De Ocampo). Hero's father Leonato (Dakin Matthews) owns the vineyard with his brother Antonio (Jared Sakren) and likes to oversee his family's love life in addition to cultivating grapes. Don Pedro (Geoffrey Lower) is back from fighting with the rest of his crew and is ready to help meddle.

Lyle Lovett and his merry band (Lyle playing minstrel Balthasar at least on closing night) wander in and out of the drama, strumming and singing lyrics to match the mood and plot. Set against a sunny villa (with the occasional dramatic lightning storm), the music is cheery and fun and helps propel the story. Lovett does his best with the text, but really, it's more of a delight to be in his presence and witness the joy he has in performing.

As for the acting, it is top-notch professional for the most part, aside from Helen Hunt's signature low-energy mannerisms as Beatrice. The "naturalness" she is touted for on screen doesn't really work on stage, especially in the expressive world of Shakespeare, so it is challenging to have sympathy for her lovelorn bacherlorette. On the other hand, Dakin Matthews is superb as Leonato, a consummate classic actor, making the Bard accessible to all and able to transform from giddy to desolate with a single deft turn of phrase. Tom Irwin does well as a jovial Benedick, if a bit older than normally portrayed (but still kinda sexy). David Ogden Stiers ("M*A*S*H") also delights as the hilariously befuddled watchman Dogberry. Everyone else is fine and the action is finely tuned by director Ben Donenberg. Julie Arenal's choreography looks nice, but it is sometimes hard to know who to focus on during some of the more winding dance numbers.

It is a frothy, light fare, interspersed with hints of darker cruelty. The music helps the lighter side, not so much the dark, but in the end, we all want a happy ending so that works out alright. As in many of Shakespeare's comedies, the cruelty bits are not really redeemed, but rather accepted as a necessary balance to happier times. Not necessarily fair (or modern), but there you have it. If it makes you feel better, check out the Gallo wine during intermission to get into the spirit of things.


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a kate west congratulations
November 1, 2010

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a kate west recommendation

"Glee" is the highly-touted mega-hit television show revolutionizing appreciation for the arts. In its second season, "Glee" depicts high school misery and joy, all centered in the glee club. It succeeds not only because of the sparklingly fresh renditions of well-known songs, but the sincerity of the characters, not to mention talented actors. Most of them are Broadway-trained, so they can all sing. Really, really well.

With that in mind naysayers, it is important to suspend a little disbelief. While this isn't "High School Musical" exactly, it is done in a musical format, so there may be a lot of fantasy and spontaneous singing that you maybe won't find at your local high. Just go with it. The music is fantastic and the story lines, while surrounded by outrageousness, involve real problems of youth - fitting in, peer pressure, angst about the future. Who can't relate? If nothing else, enjoy Coach Sue's (Jane Lynch) delicious villainy. Let these kids have a little spotlight - they deserve it.

Hear the music now:

Glee: Music from the FOX Television Show (E-Z Play Today) Read more!


a kate west rant

I signed up for Netflix years and years ago, right when it was first popular. By word of mouth too. Back when we listened to our friends in person, instead of on IM. Netflix emphasized community and shared movie preferences, and really, I would rather see what my friends thought about a movie than some idiot stranger. A few months ago, Netflix decided to do away with my favorite Friends feature, where I could do my favorite thing and send friends notes, reviews, opinions and check out what they had in their queue. That's all gone now as, supposedly, they are too busy and important to bother with social networking (though they are trying to get connected to Facebook). I really have to decide whether to stick with them or not, since I liked them initially because they were such a convenient and cozy alternative to the monster corporate bad-ass Blockbuster. Now, what's the difference? Both are mindlessly censoring our content and it is no longer homey. Back to the old fashioned neighborhood video stores, I guess. Remember those? Boo Netflix!
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Fringe Report

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2010

a kate west special report

The Fringe. One of the most famous theatrical festivals in the world. Held annually in Scotland, any theater geek worth his or her salt cannot afford to miss this celebration of thespian creativity. Originally an off-shoot of the regular festival for those who defiantly wanted their own venue, it is now a respectable entity in its own right and there is nothing like it in the world. Stroll down the Royal Mile (High Street) in Edinburgh, and you will see every kind of performer imaginable, from knife throwers and acrobats, to acapella singers and recitings of Shakespeare. There is something for everyone and with almost 3000 shows this year, the choices are dizzying, not even counting the other festivals in town (Book, Music, International, etc.) So let's start with just a few, shall we?


All The Happy People
Project by Greg Hardigan

Two of Hearts Dating Service promises to find you your perfect match. If only it were that easy. This play spotlights behind the scenes, with the harried employees in the trenches. Starting with a sleazy, corporate customer trying to make it with his interviewer, the story covers all the worst about people, dating and bosses. A scoreboard keeps tracks of how many people cry, if that tells you anything. In an inhuman company, with even worse clients, where can new girl Susan find hope? She just might, amidst stellar, strong acting, a relatable script (we've all been there, right, in work and love?) and a real feeling of immediacy, this show is highly recommended. Funny, smart and relevant - a definite must-see.

the space @venue 45
63 Jeffrey Street, EH1 1DH
August 27-29
14:05 pm

Jennifer Coolidge - Yours For The Night

The incomparable Jennifer Coolidge (AMERICAN PIE, LEGALLY BLONDE, BEST IN SHOW), delights us during her rant about Hollywood and life. She does stand-up as only she can, conversationally, and in her characteristically self-deprecatingly luscious way. Fearless and heroic, she bares all and we can't help but cheer her on.

Assembly @54 Georges Street, EH2 2LR
August 26-29

Matthew Hardy - Willy Wonka Explained: The Veruca Salt Sessions

So many of us grew up with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and who can ever forget Julie Dawn Cole as Veruca Salt demanding, "I want it now!" You would think an evening with the older actress might be a fascinating glimpse into our own past, via her pop culture heritage. Yet, this odd idea (celeb and stalker in distinct therapy sessions) is oddly executed. Film clips and crude sketch bits pop up behind the actors without any sense of rhythm or pacing. In fact, the whole show seems thrown together as a vehicle for the rantings of comedian Matthew Hardy and his obsession with his childhood crush (which the real actress does in fact, actually seem uncomfortable with). Seemingly not well thought out, this show can be easily missed (in spite of its "rave" in Melbourne), considering the thousands of other options open to you. Go find them.

Pleasance Courtyard @60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ
August 26-29

In The Pink
Fabulous all-female a cappella!

These ladies from Oxford may not be GLEE-inspired Broadway singers (most of them aren't really belty, more soprano range), but they carry a nice tune. They pick a lot of pop tunes that call for ballsy notes (a la GLEE), but use mostly their upper ranges. That's OK though, as they are awfully cute and have so much fun up on that stage with some pretty adorable numbers. They can sing folks, and have even cut a few albums. Worth a listen for some light refreshment.

C Venue 34, Adam House,
Chambers Street, EH1 1HR
August 15-30 4:45pm

Free Fringe

Hayden's Rantings Of A Young Fool

Combine some gentle rantings and musings about life and love with some darn good guitar playing (including a few classical numbers) and you've got a really nice afternoon show. Hayden puts you at ease while reciting some cool original poetry and tunes. Feel free to dialogue. He likes that. A real talent, he might be one of those "I-saw-him-when" gems of a find.

Banshee Labyrinth*, Venue 156
29-35 Niddry Street, EH1 1LG
August 11-28

*Also at the same venue:

'Utter!' Spoken Word
"Poetry & storytelling with a good sense of humour. Humour with a good sense of poetry.
Free shows, fresh themes and a different line up every day."
August 7-28 @7:30pm every day except Monday

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a kate west reflection
spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert

One of the only television series to provoke a flurry of online speculation on such weighty matters as literature, physics, love and the afterlife, "Lost" will definitely take its place in pop culture history. Granted, it's probably nothing university professors would consider in-depth, but to even allude to the philosophical in a mere t.v. show is something new these days. And fans will still be discussing the controversial finale long after its prime time demise.

Anyway, this post is really a shout-out to the die-hard fans out there, not a description of what the show is about (who can say that, even now?) or even a review. It's just, I haven't pondered a t.v. show this much since, well, ever. Following Jack, Kate, Locke, Sun/Jin, Sawyer, Hurley, Desmond, Charlie/Claire, Michael/Walt and (sigh) Sayid all these years really sunk them into my consciousness somehow, in a way that no other show did. Yes, I wanted to unravel mysteries (more satisfactorily than "X-Files", I have to say) and cliff-hangers kept me tuning in, but really it was about the characters. Those damned likable characters supposedly randomly marooned on a woefully underrated mysterious island. The location was spectacular, the sets first-rate and the musical score devastating. All those factors made this unreality so very real, and always touching at the heart of the matter - being human. And of course the actors themselves portrayed weakness and nobility so easily they made us all feel vulnerable.

So now, weeks later, I am still thinking about death. And life. And it's not as scary as it used to be. If we all end up in a church of our own making, with friends we went through hell with, we are going to be alright. If only. A series finale is in itself about an ending, obviously. And I thought I was good with those. I could move on to the next phase in my life, kind of ... unphased. But lately it's been harder and I get more sentimental as the years go by. Or maybe it's just that the changes are bigger and the moves cover more ground. And fantasy relationships are easier.

I like the idea of being led by my faithful canine companion to another plane of non-existence (though I don't want to have to stumble onto it with a gut wound and while we're at, I'm not planning on running over anyone in a wheelchair, no matter what dimension I find myself). Fox did that scene so well, that culmination of everything he was supposed to be, and had learned. We were used to the flashbacks all along, so these final bursts of insight into the past should not have surprised us, but the heart wrenching emotion that came with them this time around was almost hard to bear. Each epiphany and awakening we saw coming, but still they blinded us (yes, yes, we know, except Shannon and Sayid, boo!) The peace and happiness that came after - well the whole series seemed worth that. No more questions. It doesn't matter anymore. Not all of life's mysteries are meant to be revealed.

Suffice to say, everything on the island was real, we know that now (remember the creators promised us from season one that we were not in purgatory). Hurley and Ben maintained it for years after and when everyone finished with his/her life, they all showed up together, as if pre-arranged. Kate had been waiting years apparently. Jack finally found faith. And the light was never extinguished.

Miss you guys already.

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Behind the Scenes Drama

a kate west review
by Nancy De Los Santos-Reza, with Tomas Benitez
CAP Plaza de la Raza Youth Theater Program
directed by BJ Dodge; choreographed by Marvin Tunney
at Plaza de la Raza, Margo Albert Theater
3540 Mission Road, Los Angeles, CA 90031
contact (323) 223-2475 or www.plazadelaraza.org

MAY 7 - 7:30 PM at Plaza de la Raza, Margo Albert Theater

MAY 8 - 2:00 PM at Plaza de la Raza, Margo Albert Theater

MAY 8 - 7:30 PM at Plaza de la Raza, Margo Albert Theater

MAY 14 - 7:30 PM at Plaza de la Raza, Margo Albert Theater

MAY 15 - 7:30 PM at Plaza de la Raza, Margo Albert Theater

MAY 28 & 29 - 7:30 PM at


Roy and Edna Disney Cal Arts Theater

631 West 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 237-2800


The historical Plaza de la Raza is one of those hidden Angelino treasures that you don't know about it until someone brings you to it. Housed in one of Los Angeles' traditionally neglected playgrounds in Lincoln Park, Plaza has undergone a few revitalizations. And now, by combining its 40 year saga with CalArts Community Arts Partnership of 20 years, you get a sprawling tale of a neighborhood's labor of love. Margo Albert, famed Mexican-born movie actress (married to Eddie Albert), sold her jewelry to keep the performing arts school going back in the 1960's and it has been inspiring young people ever since.

Nancy De Los Santos-Reza, with Tomas Benitez, struggle to put all the components into a cohesive whole and under the direction of BJ Dodge, cast community youth from the program to depict their own origins in, fittingly, "Behind the Scenes Drama". Most of these kids are middle schoolers and from varied backgrounds, so you will see some unevenness. It's also tough to work in all the politics and red tape and still make a dramatically interesting story, so the piece lags at times. And it is naturally rife with inside jokes and inner cultural references, however you do learn an awful lot about the site and definitely gain an appreciation for what Plaza has been doing all these years.

Interweaving, musicians, actors, teachers, parents and of course, the heart of the program, the students, the play demonstrates an intense communal love of the arts and barrio pride and indeed is comprised of alum, current staff and CalArts representatives. The players themselves practically glow with excitement, especially during small moments taken from real life memories and inspirations. It may be a little hard to sit through it all, but while the story could use some editing, the production staff is to be commended for so obviously putting heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into so personal a recital. Can't wait to see what the future holds for them.
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April 10, 2010: Kate West

(originally published on @the3six5 website)

Monday was Opening Day (Opening Night, April 4) in the baseball world. That may not mean much to non-sports fans, but it’s a time for celebration for us die-hards. Or those of us who used to be die-hard at any rate. I was into the San Francisco Giants for a number of years and for different reasons (life stuff I won’t get into here), I no longer follow them. However, whenever I go up to the Bay Area I still enjoy an outing to AT&T Park. No, I don’t like the name either, but the stadium is beautiful, old-time, baseball fun and right on the Bay. Steadfast fans in boats retrieve soaked foul balls for a chance at a five-second news spot.
Anyway, I like visiting there with my dad and today, in celebration of his recently turning 70, we’re going back, just for fun. No stakes. Ever since seeing “Field of Dreams” for the first time, I partly associate symbolic fatherly love with playing catch. It didn’t occur to my father to do that with me, since I am a girl after all, (no offense gal athletes), but I nagged him into it and eventually we started throwing the old ball around in local parks and that really started my love of baseball which I still cherish, whether or not I follow an actual team.
Today though, my dad will walk with a cane and we’ll just talk about days in the park, as both of us are considerably older now. We’ll enjoy the atmosphere, eating as much as we want from vendors (since Mom is staying home) and looking down on our opponents (the Atlanta Braves). Maybe I’ll even buy a t-shirt. No matter how many times we’ve been, we both still marvel at that first glimpse of green field, the blue of the ocean and the cracks of the bats as the players warm up. That sound will always remind me of Dad and as we get ready to go, I am so grateful to have the chance to do this again. For me, nothing starts off springtime like a good game of baseball. And time with family.
Ready? “Play Ball!”
(...and if the game gets rained out, we'll rent a baseball movie.)
About the author: Kate West lives in Los Angeles with an extensive theatre background and has been reviewing on her website since 2003.
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Alice in Wonderland in 3D

a kate west review
directed by Tim Burton

The much-anticipated new Tim Burton project "Alice in Wonderland" has finally arrived. Combining Burton's distinct cult status and Walt Disney's immense marketing machine ensures there is no way you haven't heard of this movie. But whether it actually lives up to the year-long hype remains to be seen.

First off, it's yet another take-off/adaptation of a classic children's story; this time of the enduring tales "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll. In this version, Alice is a young woman tumbling down the rabbit hole once again in order to escape a dreaded marriage. To her surprise, her childhood dreams of Wonderland (called Underland here) are all real. There is a brief nod to the well-known story, but the rest is all conjecture. Alice must fight the Jabberwocky and save Underland from the evil Red Queen, restoring the crown to the White Queen. During her arduous journey she reunites with old characters like the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar and of course, the White Rabbit. While the personalities are fairly intact, the plot takes several jarring turns.

Mia Wasikowska is Alice, who must decide whether or not to take on great responsibility, in both her normal and other-world life. She gives an intense performance on heroism and will undoubtedly inspire little girls to stand up for themselves. She holds her own against monsters and villains and unlike the Alice from the books, she makes genuine friendships, especially with the manic Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). Helena Bonham Carter's digitally bloated head as the Red Queen is quite disturbing, but effective in conveying petulant madness. Her shrill magnificence works well, as does Anne Hathaway's dreamily psychotic White Queen. Alan Rickman is properly sage as the blue Caterpillar and Christopher Lee has a brief, but ominous turn as the Jabberwocky, when Alice ends up confronting demons, literally and figuratively. The mix of digital vs live action is a tad perplexing, however. Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas) are CGI as is the March Hare (Michael Sheen), but Alice, the White Queen and the Mad Hatter are as real as, well, can be imagined in this fanciful world.

The visuals are stunning, as is Burton's rich imagination, but really has so little to do with the core of the story that one wonders why he didn't just call it something else. Naturally, returning to a childhood site is never as one imagines, but this veers so far off track that it is bound to disappoint some literary die-hards. And the especially unfortunate choice of having Depp's Mad Hatter finish with a bizarrely inappropriate modern dance reminds us that the movie is really pop culture at its best and not in keeping with classic literature, even as a childish homage.

Unfortunate, because there are some good ideas here like dragon-slaying and prison breaks, but none of them are nostalgic nods. More like frenetic hypothesis. It's not a bad movie and parts of it are interesting indeed; it just doesn't live up expectation. And if you are going to spend over a year enticing us with scrumptious ads, please make sure you keep a good script. The story is what is important, over special effects and celebrity names. At heart, we want to remember what it's like to fall down that hole and wonder what it would be like to shrink down to toddler size again. A different perspective can always fix a little social anxiety.

You can find the soundtrack here:

Alice in Wonderland

Read the classic:

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition

Directed by
Tim Burton
Produced by
Richard D. Zanuck
Joe Roth
Suzanne Todd
Jennifer Todd
Written by
Linda Woolverton (screenplay)
Lewis Carroll (book)
Mia Wasikowska
Johnny Depp
Anne Hathaway
Helena Bonham Carter
Crispin Glover
Michael Sheen
Stephen Fry
Alan Rickman
Timothy Spall
Matt Lucas
Christopher Lee
Barbara Windsor
Music by
Danny Elfman
Dariusz Wolski
Editing by
Chris Lebenzon
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