Alice is all the rage these days; just last month, both the Royal Ballet in London and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet put on major new productions. New York Theatre Ballet’s staging may not be the most lavish or the most recent (it was created in 2001), but it is not without its charms. Conceived as a ballet for children, it tells the story in a vaudeville style, with a touch of soft-shoe, a soupçon of burlesque, and a just smattering of dancing on pointe—by Alice, of course. The production is witty, clever, and blessedly brief. Gillian Bradshaw-Smith’s set designs were inspired by New York’s Palace Theatre, circa 1913, and the costumes, by Sylvia Nolan (Metropolitan Opera), are imaginative and lovely.
What New Yorker Magazine would be complete without the word ‘soupçon?’ Their blog Photo Booth includes four more of Cervantes’ lovely photos from the Follies, including these two:
New York Theatre Ballet's Alice-in-Wonderland Follies, photographed by the New Yorker's Julieta Cervantes
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has just finished their premiere run of a new “Wonderland” choreographed by Shawn Hounsell at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall. It was there till March 13th, but it will now begin a worldwide tour of Canada, ending at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, April 28th to 30th. Paula Citron’s dance review in The Globe and Mail has a nice headline: The story wanders, but ‘Wonderland’ looks wonderful. Was she expecting a linear plot in a ballet adaption of Lewis Carroll? Here’s Citron’s critique:
…The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s new production of Wonderland, however, is both ambitious and flawed – the work is a technical triumph, but it falters in content. Montreal-based choreographer Shawn Hounsell has approached Alice from two sides. On one, the book’s favourite characters are given their rightful place on the stage, which provides both whimsy and humour. (There are also a couple of surprise cameo appearances.)
On the darker side, Hounsell has made Alice (Jacelyn Lobay) an older woman who is looking back through the rabbit hole at her dreamlike journey. That fantasy allows her to escape the mundane, but at the end of a second visit comes the reality check: Alice, and humankind in general, cannot escape into fantasy forever.
Hounsell’s problem is that, while he has fashioned Carroll’s famous characters with some skill, he has not really been able to portray the more serious parts of his vision. There is rather a disjointed quality to the choreography, and the voiceover text, while helpful, does not completely fill in the gaps. [Continue reading here.]
I wonder if adapters will ever tire of the older-Alices-returning motif, or if it’s chronically perennial? Here’s a little more of her review:
Beloved ballerina Tara Birtwhistle, looking like a 1980s Lady Gaga [What? -Ed.] with platinum hair, bright red bell bottoms and an Elizabethan collar, is a harridan of a Queen of Hearts. Using her megaphone, she shouts a stream of insults and orders, and of course her trademark “Off with their heads!” In my favourite line, she chastises the orchestra for playing too many notes.
There’s some more glowing review quotes from the RWB’s blog here.
There’s a new theater piece called Alice, premiering tonight at the Theatre of Yugen, 2840 Mariposa Street in San Francisco (running September 9th through 19th), directed and “imagined” by Allison Combs. As a work of “movement theatre,” it’s about 60% interpretive dance and 40% dialogue, easily juggling different genres of theater with different types of music, and varying levels of seriousness & silliness.
Alice, in her traditional blue outfit but played by a leggy adult actor/dancer (Megan Trout), is already exhausted on the stage when the audience is allowed to enter. (“Is that Alice?” asked a young girl behind me, Alice having already silently begun her opening number while an usher noisily hobbled past her to turn off a loud fan & the audience settled in.) This Alice starts out with grown-up anxieties, obsessive-compulsively counting numbers, and reassuring herself repeatedly “okay, okay, okay.” In contrast to the wildness she’s about to encounter, we realize that her troubled state of mind at the beginning is her supposed normalcy.
Then, instead of a white rabbit, she is shaken from her routine by a single playing card falling from the sky. A tribe of five strange savages in rags starts to mess with her by taking her thru the mind-and-body-changing adventures of Wonderland, loosely inspired by the stuff that happens in Carroll’s book. (While Alice was exploring the corridor, before it really gets going, the child behind me declared “This is upsetting because it’s boring.”) Growing, shrinking, falling, mushrooms, being stuck in a house, scary forests, and all manner of psychedelic abstractions are created by the weird tribe with their flexible interlocking limbs, in extremely creative ways. Only using their bodies, a caterpillar sits on a mushroom, and when he sucks on one of their fingers, the whole mushroom inhales & exhales. It’s most fun during the wild dance numbers, with their very cool choreography; it drags a little during the dialog, which like so many Alice in Wonderland adaptations, is always a lot less clever than Carroll’s original. For some reason, their amazing Cheshire Cat, very feline & Kabuki-ish, stuck closer to Carroll’s words, and was consequently much more powerful.
After Alice has gone native, a new square-peg (named Lewis) also finds himself lost in Wonderland, and by this time Alice has already become one of the weird savages. Lewis’s unhappy anal-retention makes us realize what Wonderland is to these people: everything ‘other’ in American society. Their Wonderland is part hippie, part hipster, part Burning Man, part mushroom trip, totally gay, multi-cultural and sexy. It has games with no rules, self-examination, community, humor, and of course lots of dancing and singing. It’s also dirty. Uptight Lewis rejects it outright, and even Alice eventually wakes up. But she’s definitely dirtier than before her trip to Wonderland (“Is she dripping sweat?” asked the child behind me.)
On March 31, NCM Fathom and MarQe Entertainment Inc. announced a series of New York Theatre Ballet performances to be shown exclusively in select movie theaters nationwide beginning this August. Six performances of dynamic chamber ballet classics will be presented including The Alice in Wonderland Follies. Tickets will be available beginning Friday, July 10, at www.FathomEvents.com.
Shrug off the squareness of reality and fall into a swingin’ re-imagination of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale of nonsense and fantasy, come along with Alice as she discovers what wonders lie behind the velvet rope at Wonderland’s nightclub, The Looking Glass. An exploration of divergent art influences, “Through The Looking Glass: The Burlesque Alice In Wonderland” mixes jazz with classical, Indian, and exotic music to set the mood as dancers mix ballet, tap, contemporary, and jazz dance into a whirlwind of whimsy and bawdy beauty. At Seattle’s The Triple Door, March 24, 25, and 26.
This weekend, March 8 and 9, the Gwinnett Ballet Theatre of Snellville, Georgia, performs a ballet of Alice with what look like wonderful costumes: www.gwinnettballet.org.
On Saturday, March 15, the Leeds [U.K.] Centre for Victorian Studies, is holding the 19th Northern Victorian Studies Colloquium, on Victorian Ethics. In the section titled: Children and Literature: Zoe Jaques (Anglia Ruskin University) will be giving the following talk at 3:45 pm: “Alice’s Moral Wonderland: Lewis Carroll and Animal Ethics.” Further details from their website: www.leedstrinity.ac.uk/lcvs/Colloquia/Ethics.html.
On Saturday, April 26, Storybook Weekend Events of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in conjunction with its performance of Alice In Wonderland, will include a “Mad Hatters Tea Party” in the Great Hall adjacent to the Grand Theater (www.grandoperahouse.org/events/tas/0708/12alice.html), “Queens Croquet” events on the City Square,” and most importantly, a corresponding exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum (www.lywam.org) of a small selection of art and items from LCSNA member Joel Birenbaum’s collection. The exhibit opens on Friday, April 25.