Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Primer
by Karen Kain
March 5, 2019
Christopher Wheeldon’s production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland adheres closely to the narrative and characters in Lewis Carroll’s book and celebrates the wonderful anarchy, imaginative uproar, subversive comedy and the touching undercurrent of love that runs through the story. The work is nothing less than a modern masterpiece, both spectacular in its theatricality and brilliantly and memorably observed in its characterization and detail.
Everyone who knows Carroll’s original story of Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole will find all of the familiar characters present in the ballet: The White Rabbit, Knave of Hearts, Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts, Mad Hatter, Caterpillar and Alice herself. But librettist Nicholas Wright has added a new prologue to the story, created a role for Lewis Carroll and made Alice slightly older, so that the narrative has the added dimension of a love story between her and Jack. He also has the Wonderland characters mirror the real-life characters whom we meet in the prologue.
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Things to Watch For:
Christopher has included many clever and often very funny references to other famous ballets in Alice.
- In Act III the Queen of Hearts’ hilarious dance with her partners in the Tart Adagio is a parody of the well-known Rose Adagio in The Sleeping Beauty
- In a special nod to his English roots, Christopher added a little section from La Fille mal gardée for Alice in the hall of doors
Several characters in the ballet are linked to specific musical themes in composer Joby Talbot’s score. The themes are introduced in the prologue and then repeated throughout the ballet when the characters appear in their Wonderland guises. Some of the characters also have signature choreographic steps that again connect them to the figures they change into in Wonderland. Joby uses different instruments to represent different characters in the ballet. The celesta, for instance, is associated with the White Rabbit, the oboe for the Caterpillar and a solo violin tuned slightly sharp for the Queen of Hearts.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is onstage March 7 – 17, 2019.