Theatre / Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
(2011) is a full-evening story ballet adapted from Alice in Wonderland,
with choreography by Christopher Wheeldon and music by Jody Talbot. The ballet was co-produced by the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, both of which have staged their own productions. It debuted in the USA in late 2012, when the NBC performed it in Los Angeles; in 2013, the Royal Ballet staged a live cinema performance and later took the ballet to Japan. In 2016, it received its first staging outside the two original companies with the Royal Swedish Ballet. Opus Arte released Alice
on DVD in 2011.
In the original version, Act I opens with a garden party at the Liddell household, where an adolescent Alice gives one of the young gardeners, Jack, a tart. However, Mrs. Liddell accuses Jack of stealing the tart and fires him, much to Alice's dismay. The party itself includes such local notables as a Rajah, the vicar, the verger, a magician, and Lewis Carroll
. When Carroll asks Alice to pose for a photograph, the lighting changes, Carroll's photography bag expands, and Carroll turns into the White Rabbit. Alice falls through the photography bag and winds up in Wonderland. Among other adventures, she encounters Wonderland's version of Jack, the Knave, who is on the run from the Queen of Hearts.
Act II is set at the Court. Besides playing croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs, Alice sees the Knave again. But he is soon arrested and put on trial. Although he and Alice eventually manage to convince almost everyone in the court of his innocence, thanks to The Power of Love
, the Queen of Hearts tries to execute him herself. Alice manages to knock over the entire Court before waking up in the twenty-first century, suggesting that this may have been a Dream Within a Dream
The revised 2012 staging breaks the evening into three acts. Act I now incorporates more dancing for Alice and the Knave, and ends right before Alice's encounter with the Cheshire Cat. The DVD preserves the two-act version.
This ballet provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: The Duchess to the Caterpillar.
- Adaptation Explanation Extrication: The Mad Hatter's Leitmotif is a ticking clock, but nothing at all survives of the original "always six o'clock" explanation for the Tea Party. In the Time Stands Still moment, everybody else appears to be briefly stuck, but not the Hatter.
- Affectionate Parody: A lot.
- The Queen's Jam Tart Adagio parodies the Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty.
- The Queen herself is a sendup of an egotistical prima ballerina.
- There are multiple references to The Nutcracker, including the dance of the flowers that ends Act I (or II, depending on the version). The White Rabbit is also closer to Drosselmeier than to Carroll's original.
- The final arabesque pose in George Balanchine's Apollo appears in the middle of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
- All There in the Manual: The synopsis clarifies where the ballet deviates from the original, especially in the trial sequence (where Alice tries to take the blame on herself).
- And You Were There: All of the Wonderland characters appear as their Victorian equivalents in the garden party prologue.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The Mad Hatter's contributions to the Funny Background Events in the courtroom sequence.
- Author Avatar: In-universe, Lewis Carroll becomes the White Rabbit.
- Axe-Crazy: The Queen of Hearts and the Cook.
- Oddly enough, averted by the Executioner, who is just doing his job.
- Berserk Button: Whatever you do, don't go anywhere near the Queen's jam tarts.
- Beta Couple: The Cook and the Executioner.
- Butt Monkey: The Dormouse.
- The Cast Show Off: The Mad Hatter taps because Wheeldon wanted to take advantage of the original dancer's skill.
- Character Tic:
- The Dormouse dozes off, even in the middle of a dance step.
- The Caterpillar rubs his chin.
- The White Rabbit scratches his neck or leg.
- The Queen of Hearts makes throat-slashing gestures.
- The Mad Hatter spins his hat.
- The Cook caresses her meat cleaver.
- Cheshire Cat Grin
- Clock King: The White Rabbit.
- Clock Punk: Watches, video projections of clocks, and clock sounds in the score (especially for the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter).
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: It's Wonderland, so that's the hat. Still, the King of Hearts and the Mad Hatter distinguish themselves by being especially out to lunch.
- Collapsing Lair: Thanks to No Ontological Inertia, the entire castle falls in once the Queen of Hearts is defeated.
- Color-Coded Characters: The Frog and Fish Footmen, who are indistinguishable otherwise.
- Coming-of-Age Story: The adolescent Alice discovers romantic love.
- Costume Porn: In particular, the Duchess' Pimped-Out Dress, the Cards' tutus, and the Mad Hatter's embroidered pink-and-green suit.
- Courtroom Antics: And how!
- Creepy Shadowed Undereyes: The Mad Hatter's eye makeup is a little alarming in this respect.
- The Cook has an even worse case.
- Cross-Cast Role: The Duchess is intended for a male actor.
- An option for the Dormouse, who needs to be small enough for the Hatter and Hare to pick up easily.
- Disney Villain Death: The Queen of Hearts.
- Distant Finale: Alice wakes up in the twenty-first century, along with her boyfriend Jack. There's also a familiar-looking man taking photographs.
- Distressed Dude: The Knave of Hearts.
- The Dog Bites Back: When the Rube Goldberg Machine fails to work on the Queen of Hearts, it's left to the much-abused King of Hearts to shove her off the dais.
- Down the Rabbit Hole: In the original version, the White Rabbit pulls Alice down Carroll's photographer's bag; in the revised version, it's a jelly mold.
- The Drag-Along: The Dormouse, often literally.
- Dream Within a Dream: So the Distant Finale suggests, although Alice can't help wondering if she recognizes that photographer.
- Dull Surprise: Played for comedy with the King of Hearts, who obviously finds his wife's antics exhausting.
- Everyone Owns A Mac: The photographer in the Distant Finale uses an iPhone.
- Evil Redhead: The Queen of Hearts, whose blazing red hair matches her tutu.
- Follow the White Rabbit
- Funny Background Event: Unlike the classic story ballets, where the corps and mime characters sit quietly watching the other dancers go through their variations, there's a lot of comical action taking place in the background during the courtroom sequence. The King, the Mad Hatter, and the Cook are most notable in this regard, although the Queen's reactions to the testimony are also very funny.
- Giant Food: The Mad Tea Party includes an oversized Victoria sponge cake (doubling as a trampoline) and two huge cupcakes. The revised version also has a gigantic jelly mold that appears during the garden party prologue.
- God Save Us from the Queen!
- Gorn: "Pig and Pepper," especially in the original version. It's the ballet's only real example of Grimmification.
- Groin Attack: The Queen of Hearts does this to one of the Cards at the end of the Jam Tart Adagio.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Live-action version. The White Rabbit has a shirt, waistcoat, and formal jacket with tails, but no pants (aside from the ballet tights, anyway).
- He Went That Way: To throw the Queen off at one point during the chase sequence.
- Henpecked Husband: The King of Hearts, who is even pecked by a flamingo at one point.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: The Mad Hatter and the March Hare are very demonstrative with each other, quite sweetly so in the final act.
- Hope Spot: After the pas de deux for Alice and the Knave during the trial, everyone is converted to their side. They're safe, right? Time to bring on the Axe-Crazy.
- Hot Blooded Sideburns: The March Hare and his Victorian counterpart, the Vicar.
- Hot Potato: In the three-act version, several witnesses do this with the jam tart tray during the courtroom sequence.
- Improv: The Funny Background Events in the courtroom sequence are mostly this.
- Steven McRae, the original Mad Hatter, mentioned in an interview that he changes the tap steps slightly each time.
- Incredible Shrinking Man
- Lighter and Softer: According to Word of God. Even the creepier characters, like the Duchess and the Mad Hatter, have warmed up by the end of the ballet.
- Lilliputians: The Wonderlanders. You can get a sense of scale by taking a close look at the crown of the Mad Hatter's top hat, which is made from a thread bobbin.
- Little Bit Beastly / Petting Zoo People: The Wonderland animals, with the White Rabbit, Dormouse, and March Hare at the LBB end and the Caucus Race animals more PZP.
- Averted by the Caterpillar, who looks completely human, aside from a brief glimpse of his "legs" at the very end of his scene.
- Also averted by the Cheshire Cat, but to the opposite extreme; he's completely animal.
- The Mad Hatter
- Magic Mushroom
- Monkey Morality Pose: The female Cards do this while the Knave is being dragged off to imprisonment.
- Mr. Fanservice: The Caterpillar. In-universe, too, given how the Queen and the characters in the witness box react.
- Nervous Wreck: The White Rabbit, of course.
- No Indoor Taps: If the King of Hearts' response to the Mad Hatter's tap-danced testimony is any indication.
- Nightmare Fuel: "Pig And Pepper". Dear god, "Pig And Pepper". Especially in the original version. It starts when the Cook opens a window and smoke pours out as she sharpens two oversized meat cleavers. Alice goes inside the house...where everything is bathed in red light and giant pigs are strung up from the ceiling, plus one that's half in a mincer with sausages coming out the other end. The Cook and the Duchess both have blood-stained aprons on, and more than once end up attempting to kill each other. Then, after all that, Alice escapes from the house with the baby (who has by now turned into a pig), only to have it snatched from her by the Duchess who carries it back inside the house while the Cook slams the door brandishing her meat cleaver. Considering that the rest of the ballet is arguably Lighter and Softer than its literature counterpart, this entire section is particularly jarring.
- Off with His Head!: That being said, as in the novel, it's not clear that anybody actually loses their head—in fact, the Card slated for execution during the Jam Tart Adagio shows up again for the trial.
- Oh, Crap!: One of the Cards has this reaction once he realizes that he was supposed to give the tart to the Queen, not eat it himself...
- Only Sane Man: Alice, the Knave, and the White Rabbit.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: The tap-dancing Mad Hatter.
- Parent Service: The Caterpillar, very much. Although his counterpart in the garden party is the Rajah, the Caterpillar's scene is a genderflipped version of the Arabian dance, Coffee, from The Nutcracker.
- Plant People: The flowers in the waltz.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Alice is in her teens, just old enough to experience Puppy Love.
- Post-Kiss Catatonia: The King tries to induce this in the Queen during the chase, but it only works for a couple of seconds.
- The Power of Love: How Alice and the Knave manage to win everyone to their side.
- Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat: The Magician does this during the garden party.
- Puppy Love: Alice and Jack/The Knave.
- Rube Goldberg Machine: The domino effect Alice sets off at the end of the chase sequence.
- Sleepy Head: The Dormouse and his Victorian counterpart, the Verger, although the King of Hearts could also use several cups of espresso.
- A Spot Of Tea: Although only the March Hare seems to get any.
- Time Stands Still: Happens for a few seconds during the Tea Party.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: This may be part of the joke in the Queen's Jam Tart Adagio, depending on the casting.
- The National Ballet of Canada, which doesn't currently have an unusually tall female dancer to play the Queen, has compensated by making the joke Huge Guy, Tiny Girl.
- True Companions: After the trial, everyone joins up with Alice and the Knave to save them from the Queen of Hearts.
- Unusual Eyebrows: Although the Mad Hatter's eyebrow makeup differs slightly from dancer to dancer, the eyebrows are always extremely spiky. In the original design, they're also mismatched.