The National Ballet of Canada (NBC) production of Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a reflection of the famous Alice stories themselves - fun, completely imaginative and filled with unexpected moments of awe. Like many, Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite stories. With the countless interpretations of the books through film and other mediums, it's hard not to think that perhaps the tale has been stretched in every which way possible. If that is your mindset, watching this production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland will change it completely.
This ballet is unlike any ballet production I've ever been to. Combining elements of dance, multimedia, and beautiful music by Joby Talbot, the cast of NBC take the audience into a truly fantastical world. In describing the U.S. premiere of this production and the Music Center debut of the National Ballet of Canada, Music Center Director of Programming Renae Williams Niles writes
Alice is truly the most complex ballet we have presented to date, equaling more than three times the scale of many other full-length ballet productions. With its captivating choreography and inventive design and use of technology it is quite an iconic production. The music by Joby Talbot with 24 different movements, guides us on a thrilling journey...With a run time of two hours and thirty-five minutes, this ballet holds nothing back. It provides its own framework for the Alice story - we meet Alice as part of the Liddell family, with Lewis Carroll entertaining the children with magic tricks, as a garden party is being set up. Alice also has a young romance with Jack, the gardener boy, that will carry into her adventures in Wonderland. But from there the tale is very much true to the book. The combination of multimedia and beautiful stage sets is part of what makes this ballet so memorable. The audience truly feels as if they are falling down a rabbit hole with Alice and are with her as she shrinks and grows while drinking and eating cake.
The characters themselves come to life in both expected and unexpected ways. Dancers portray a familiar cast of characters, including the Duchess, the Cook, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar and, of course, the Queen of Hearts. The Cheshire Cat is literally larger than life with its many pieces and dancers that bring him into the scenes. Each scene falls effortlessly into the next and with every rise of the curtain for a new set design, there was a hush in the crowd at its beauty. The ballet dancers carry you on this journey through Wonderland, with their technical skill and grace their dancing is part of the storytelling, their movements on stage more magical feats to add to the loveable madness.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland draws the audience into the emotional, the fun, and the funny. Whether we're falling into a rabbit hole or watching the fearful entry of the Queen of Hearts or laughing at the outlandish antics of favorite, silly characters, this ballet does what the best shows do: it makes the audience forget the world outside and believe that anything is possible.
- Charity Tran