Friday, February 14, 2014

Balletmet Columbus Presents Alice In Wonderland

The story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll in 1865, has taken on a life of its own. New adaptations of the story can be found in books, television series, movies, party themes, works of art, plays, musicals, even ballet! Some adaptations stay true to the original story, others diverge down a new path. 

I read the Wikipedia article, Works based on Alice in Wonderland, which lists the following adaptations of Lewis Carroll's original story, or works inspired by it:

  • 32 literary different re-tellings and sequels
  • 26 literary allusions and influences
  • 12 comics, manga and graphic novels
  • 21 films telling the story of Alice in Wonderland
  • 15 films which are sequels or are inspired by Wonderland or elements of the story
  • 23 animated works
  • 8 television adaptations
  • 3 theater adaptations
  • 4 artists who have based some of their work on the story, including paintings by Salvador Dali and statues of characters in New York's Central Park and two towns in England, Guildford and Warrington.
  • 42 musical pieces inspired by or containing references to Wonderland or Alice
  • 2 radio dramas
  • 29 video and role-playing games
  • 3 instances where science and technology were influenced by Wonderland
  • 5 tourist attractions (including Walt Disney Parks)
  • 2 food connections, chef Heston Blumenthal has been inspired by Wonderland with his gastronomy style cooking and Lucky's Chocolates has a range of Wonderland themed confections.

What a list! My favorite adaptations are the film Phoebe in Wonderland (2008) starring Elle Fanning, the Syfy channel mini-series Alice (2009) starring Caterina Scorsone and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, (2010) starring Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. After reading this list I want to read some of the literary adaptations and try some of Lucky's Chocolates Wonderland candy!

I only recently developed an interest in Alice in Wonderland, after one of the craft days at work had the theme of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party four years ago. This theme has been repeated annually and I have taken on the role of Alice each year. I also have created Wonderland themed decorations and am always on the lookout for more Wonderland inspired crafts and decor.

I was really excited when I saw that BalletMet would be presenting Alice in Wonderland! Kenneth and I caught an evening performance at the Capitol Theater last weekend. I thought it was fantastic! The cast were mostly dancers and the performance was primarily ballet; but a few actors from CATCO joined the cast, adding theatrics and dialogue to the performance. 

Author's Note: I didn't take any photos during the ballet performance, so I'm including some collages I made of my Alice costume and decorations I've made over the years.

The storyline represented in the ballet was a combination of stories from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I've read and seen various film adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and was familiar with the characters and basic plot line. Kenneth however, has not and found himself lost during a few parts of the performance. I probably should have had him watch the 1951 Disney version before seeing the ballet!

I loved how creatively various Wonderland events were depicted in the show. Alice falling down the rabbit hole was performed under a spotlight with dancers in black full body leotards lifting, twirling, turning and other wise "flying" Alice. To show Alice shrinking and growing after drinking from the little "drink me" bottle, the dancer playing Alice stood behind a backlit screen, which made the act look like a snippet from a shadow puppet show. By dancing close to the light, Alice grew, by dancing further away from the light and closer to the screen, Alice shrank. It was a brilliant way to show that transformation!

Alice's tears were long strips of light blue cloth, which quickly grew and stretched the more she cried,  eventually forming a salty sea of tears in the long hallway of doors. Alice and other characters get swept into the current, until Alice calms down and stops crying.

To show Alice's sense of confusion in not knowing who she is, three dancers and an actress portray Alice at once. Alice dances with these other versions of herself, apparently comforted by the familiar face. The four Alices appear from time to time during the ballet, sometimes taking the place of the original Alice for a scene.

The actress portraying Alice, Heather Burley, provides Alice's inner thoughts in the limited dialogue in the ballet. I found the infrequent repartee to be helpful, especially for audience members who are less familiar with the story. Another CATCO actor, Jeff Horst, also provides dialogue and portrays Alice's family butler, the Caterpillar, the Mock Turtle, Humpty Dumpty and the White King.

I thought the colorful and crazy costumes were wonderful! The Red King and Queen of Hearts had voluminous, bee-hive styled, pink hair that bobbled and bounced when they moved. Tweedledee and Tweedledum had the biggest, poofiest pants I've ever seen - I don't know how they moved with them on, let alone danced! The caterpillar was played by multiple dancers, one played his head and several others were his body. The actor playing the head wore green and black, the other dancers wore all black, except for green spiky hats which represented the caterpillar's spikes. These dancers also carried silver exercise balls as part of the caterpillar's long and segmented body. All of the characters in the ballet were easily recognized, yet the costumes and portrayals felt fresh and well suited to the medium of ballet.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production of Alice in Wonderland and feel inspired for the next Wonderland themed craft day at work!