Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
As we all know I consider myself quite the arts aficionado, especially in our humble home The Great White North. Whether your an arts buff or merely someone who doesn’t inhabit the underside of a rock we all know The National Ballet of Canada. So of course when I got an invite to review the opening night of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts I graciously accepted.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is truly one of my favourite childhood tales, and I’m quite sure its responsible my off the rocker imagination. Anytime I hear a mention of an adaptation to my cherished story I’m automatically skeptical (just being honest), but I figured a co-production between The National Ballet of Canada and The Royal Ballet with a choreographer like Christopher Wheeldon you can’t go wrong.
I was pleasantly surprised when the curtains rose to a garden-party prologue complete with historical charm straight from the pages of Carroll’s book. It took a moment to sink in, but right then I knew I was on a journey back to my childhood, a time we all remember oooh too well. As my eyes grew wider I began to notice Wheeldon and Nicholas Wright (who wrote the scenario) decided hell with the with the traditional storyline, and opted for a brilliantly updated love-story with all the bells and whistles the Wonderland has to offer.
Zdenek Konvalina and Jillian Vanstone in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Zdenek Konvalina is perfect for the handsome young gardener Jack, and first soloist Jillian Vanstone’s childlike disposition is fitting for Alice. As their young love blossoms Alice falls head over heels and tumbles down the rabbit hole, and can I say this fall started the ballet… Cleverly designed projection by Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington illuminates the stage with a black and white hypnotic swirl, in the which makes rabbit hole s the projected special ef. Royal Ballet guest artist Steven McRae brought the Mad Hatter to life with his quirky tapping number, which was perfectly fitting for Carroll’s the outlandish character . Aleksandar Antonijevic as the White Rabbit (who would’ve thought), was the perfect off the wall companion to Alice as she discovered all her adventures in Wonderland.
The real star of the show for me was veteran principal dancer Greta Hodgkinson as the Queen of Hearts the fire and intensity behind her performance was breathtaking I mean at some moments (there was a lot of them) she just stole the whole damn show especially with her costumes. The pièce de résistance for me was the return of Rex Harrington as the King of Hearts, and boy did he have my heart pumping (don’t judge me).
Of course being fashion obsessed the real highlight for me was the set, costume and properties design by Bob Crowley first of I need to know how it’s humanly possible for one man to do all this design; much less execute it so well. I mean the Queen’s costume on its own was a show-stopper, her red heart-shaped capsule fully equipped with a set of stairs for her King to perch on (you have to see it). What I appreciated the most from Crowley is he made sure every image you associated with the story as a child was there in real life… I mean he even had the house of cards and they collapsed (genuis I know). Don’t get me wrong I heard a few groans about the design, being too elaborate and stealing the whole show, cry me a river it was spectacular.
The ballet’s orchestra did true justice to Joby Talbot’s music which provided the neccessary atmosphere and setting for this magicial tale, and his commissioned score was excellent with tinges of classical works that we all have grown to love.
Without a doubt this is one of my new favourites, its captivating, witty, imaginetive, quirky, and just plain delightful. It had a little bit of everything you could want in a ballet… well at least I want. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the perfect display of a new direction in ballet, gone are the day of the rigid pretentiousness many have come to dislike… instead ballet is back to being what it is an art- the true embodiment of the human spirit.