FLASH FRIDAY: Down The Rabbit Hole With ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
One of the most iconic and recognizable 19th century novels, Lewis Carroll's literary masterpiece ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND has inspired countless iterations over the nearly 150 years since its debut, yet the new Fathom Events presentation of noted director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's incredibly imaginative and vivid ballet production may be the most satisfying yet.
The Rabbit Hole. The White Rabbit. The March Hare. The Caterpillar. The Cheshire Cat. The Tea Party. The Queen Of Hearts. Alice. And, who could forget the Mad Hatter?! Seven instantly recognizable figures originating in one of the most oft-quoted and frequently referenced books ever written - a literary touchstone that began as a mere entertainment for the three daughters of Henry Liddell meant simply to pass the time while paddling five miles up the Isis portion of the River Thames. What started as a frivolous folly ended up as a recognizable and ever apparent facet of our very culture. After all, how deep do the connections between the tales told by Carroll and us - first formally presented, incidentally, at this very time of year (November 26, to be exact) back in 1865 - actually tie? Well, one need look no further than the nearest looking glass to see.
ALICE'S ADVENTURES UNDER GROUND was the first of Carroll's creations featuring the curious and cute heroine, Alice, while the expanded and fully-fleshed-out which came immediately next edition was subsequently re-titled into the now instantly familiar ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (often shortened to simply ALICE IN WONDERLAND or singularly ALICE) - unquestionably the highlight of the series for many fans around the world, though Carroll himself oversaw the official publication of the earlier version as well as a simplified and sanitized version for children "Aged From Nought To Five" - with the final entry in the series being THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS, AND WHAT ALICE FOUND THERE, published in 1871. While all books have their virtues, particularly the two main books of the series, most of the iconography so irrevocably linked to Carroll's opus originates in the initial introduction to the characters found in the first full volume, ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, which was the wise basis for the entirety of the action in Christopher Wheeldon's ballet.
While many film and TV adaptations have come and gone over the decades and ensuing century and a half, a handful instantly spring to mind for many fans of the franchise, no matter how faithful to the source material they actually may be - the unforgettable 1951 Disney animated feature film, natch, as well as sporadic stage adaptations such as 1980's Public Theater ALICE AT THE PALACE starring Meryl Streep and the recent WONDERLAND Broadway musical by Frank Wildhorn and Jack Murphy, adding to numerous TV adaptations, such as the 1983 Great Performances presentation starring Kate Burton, the 1985 Irwin Allen-produced two-part TV miniseries and the 1986 BBC version, without even mentioning the international 1999 TV special event and also the mega-successful 2010 3D feature film directed by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp. Of course, the many subtle and outright blatant homages to the classic tale of a girl on a weird and ultimately wonderful journey in a magical and perhaps quite metaphorical land range from a 1976 pornographic movie musical to Woody Allen's wry and witty romantic drama ALICE from 1990, to name but a few. Yet, one version plunges to the dramatic and emotional depths of the rabbit hole deeper and soars to the fantastical heights of our headiest fever dreams higher and more thoroughly than any other - the ballet.
Broadway, West End and internationally renown choreographer and director Christopher Wheeldon brings his unmistakable flash, taut precision and invigorating stylistic flourishes to this worthwhile take on the timeless yarn, weaving a whole new visual and sonic tapestry byway of the engrossing and visually expansive production, now dynamically and expertly filmed for our pleasure and enjoyment by peerless presenter Fathom. Originally commissioned for the Royal Ballet Theatre in 2011, Wheeldon set out with scenarist Nicholas Wright to craft a careful and considered adaptation containing the many hallmarks of the well-told tale and presenting them in a concise and dramatically expressive manner. Utilizing an orchestrally rich, musically varied score composed and supervised by Joby Talbot, the spine-tingling surprises in store at ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND extend far beyond that of the character quirks and unusual story to the masterful implementation of witty and winsome musical cues instantly evoking the world conjured up by Carroll. Furthermore, some of Broadway's best designers have dreamed up a mise en scene that would surely delight Carroll himself thanks to the gasp-inducing scenic and costume designs by Tony Award-winner Bob Crowley along with lighting by Natasha Katz and featuring illuminating projections by John Driscoll and Gemma Carrington.
Additionally, the filmed performance being presented next week by Fathom showcases major performing talent on display, as well: Sarah Lamb as Alice, Federico Bonelli as Jack/The Knave of Hearts, Edward Watson as Lewis Carroll/The White Rabbit, Zenaida Yanowsky as Mother/The Queen of Hearts and Steven McRae as the Magician/The Mad Hatter, with David Briskin conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
150 years, 150 unforgettable moments (at the very least) and more than 150 reasons why ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND is the ideal early holiday gift to give yourself and those you love - Lewis Carroll to Christopher Wheeldon to your very heart.
More information on Fathom's presentation of ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND in select movie theaters nationwide on November 19 is available at the official site here.
Down The Rabbit Hole
So, now, let us take a look at some of the most classic pop culture moments pertaining to ALICE IN WONDERLAND over the years while looking ahead to Fathom's presentation of ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND next week.
First up, here is the official trailer for Fathom's presentation of Christopher Wheeldon's ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND by the Royal Opera House Ballet.
Next, go behind the scenes with the Queen Of Hearts herself, portrayed by Zenaida Yanowsky.
Christopher Wheeldon and members of the creative team offer a peek inside the creative process in this discussion the various dance styles presented in the ballet.
Sample some of Joby Talbot's ingratiating score with a suite from the Act I Flower Garden sequence in this soundtrack clip.
For even more about Christopher Wheeldon's ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, see this fascinating mini documentary.
Give over to temptation and spy this clip of the Mad Hatter as imaginatively presented in the ballet.
Now, let's take a look at some of the most memorable utilization of Lewis Carroll's classic ALICE books, beginning with the first talkie film version in 1931.
Now, view this 1974 re-issue trailer for Disney's landmark 1951 animated musical film.
Merry Christmas from Walt! Walt Disney himself introduces this rare footage cut from the final film and talks about Lewis Carroll.
Meryl Streep stars as Alice in the unique theatrical event ALICE AT THE PALACE aka ALICE IN CONCERT.
Check out the all-star 1985 TV miniseries adaptation of the ALICE books.
Take in the full 1999 TV film adaptation of ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
Lastly, view the trailer for the 2010 Tim Burton film version.
So, what exactly is it about the story of a girl escaping through her mirror into a magical and memorable universe of outlandish, outrageous and out-of-this-world characters that has enraptured so many generations for almost 150 years? Furthermore, what has been your favorite variation on the story made available in the many different mediums discussed today? Whatever your preferences, clearly it is all of our merriest un-birthdays thanks to this pristine and powerful new presentation in ballet form coming to movie theaters nationwide next week courtesy of the Royal Opera Ballet!