The National Ballet of Canada's hugely ambitious production of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (in Los Angeles for a brief three day run at the Music Center) has much to offer. A world-class choreographer in Christopher Wheeldon, an original score by Joby Talbot, superb dancing, romance, and a surprise ending. There's even a tap-dancing, if slightly twisted, Gene Kelly-esque Mad Hatter. But for me, the real stars are the sets and costumes (by Bob Crowley) and the special effects.
Alice's journey must be a theatrical designer's dream and in this case the creative team didn't hold back. Our heroine's wild descent down the rabbit hole and inevitable shrinking and growing are experienced through video projection (used frequently throughout the show and designed by Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington) which employs a mix of animation and stills. The "Mad Tea Party" blazes with wacky color, the Caterpillar and his magic mushroom have been given an exotic Oriental twist, and the Queen of Heart's garden and courtroom are a geometric revelation. The costumes are sumptuous, and humorous when they need to be. A clear audience favorite is the super-sized Cheshire Cat who, through the use of puppetry, moves his independent body parts at will to surprise and confound Alice.
It's always a pleasure to experience a story and characters you think you know in a new way. The ballet is long, running a little over two and a half hours, but the anticipation of each scene and how the designers might wow us helped it to move along quickly. This interpretation of the much loved children's classic is a collaboration between the Canadian company and London's Royal Ballet and first premiered in 2011. It's only here through Sunday, Oct. 21 so those who want to see it should take a cue from the White Rabbit and move quickly.
Video tour of the costumes and sets back home in Canada:
Photos: Cylla von Tiedemann