Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (ballet)

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a ballet in three acts by Christopher Wheeldon with a scenario by Nicholas Wright. It was commissioned by The Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, and the National Ballet of Canada and had its world premiere on Monday, 28 February 2011. The music by Joby Talbot is the first full-length score (1 hour 40 minutes) for the Royal Ballet in 20 years.[1]

Artistic philosophy[edit]

The work is based on Lewis Carroll's well-known children's story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Wheeldon was attracted by the physicality of the characters and the perfect central role for a ballerina: "The Royal Ballet already has a wealth of full-blooded ballets. I wanted to create something lighter and more friendly." He chose Lauren Cuthbertson for the lead role of Alice as someone who could "captivate the audience and make them believe in Alice." As for the music, Talbot explained that he "wanted to find a new sound, the right timbre for Wonderland." His orchestral score has a large percussion section and four female voices.[2]

Reviews of premiere[edit]

The premiere was well received by the audience although some reviewers commented on an excessively long first act. Wheeldon's choreography sometimes had to fight for attention, given all the special staging effects. Joby Talbot's exuberant score was credited with providing sophisticated, danceable music with vividly descriptive melodies. Lauren Cuthbertson's performance was said to be "alert, funny and deliciously un-twee".[3][4] Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Sarah Crompton commented: "Wheeldon’s Alice will undoubtedly be hugely popular; it’s colourful, enjoyable fun. But it needed a little more dance and a little less action to take its place alongside those English story ballets the choreographer himself so admires.".[5]

Choreographic development[edit]

By 2012, Wheeldon had changed the structure of the ballet so that it consisted of three acts instead of the original two and had inserted an additional pas de deux for Alice and the knave.[6]


Oxford Characters:
Alice: the original protagonist in Lewis Carroll's novel, in which she is a child; in the ballet she is a teenager beginning her first romance.
Henry Liddell and his wife: Alice's parents; her father is the vice-chancellor of Oxford.
Lewis Carroll: the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lorina and Edith: Alice's two sisters.
Jack: the gardener's boy who is sent away after being accused of stealing a jam tart.

Wonderland Characters
The Queen of Hearts: a homicidal monarch wearing blood red and terrorizing everyone in sight. Played by the same dancer who plays Alice's mother.
The King of Hearts: Played by the same dancer who plays Alice's father.
White Rabbit: the Queen's assistant, frightened of his employer. Portrayed by the same dancer who plays Lewis Carroll.
Knave of Hearts: one of a pack of playing cards, he is accused of stealing jam tarts and stands trial. Played by the same dancer who plays Jack.[7]
The Duchess: a lady of Wonderland who is invited to play croquet with the Queen.
The Frog: butler to the Duchess.
The Fish: letter-carrier of Wonderland.
The Cheshire Cat: a mysterious grinning cat whom Alice asks for directions.
Mad Hatter, March Hare & Dormouse: three characters whom Alice encounters having a tea party.
Caterpillar: an exotic insect who gives Alice a piece of hallucinogenic mushroom to eat.[8]

Premiere cast[edit]

28 February 2011:[9]

2017 Australian Ballet season[edit]

In late 2017, Wheeldon's Royal Opera House production has been added to the repertoire of The Australian Ballet, with seasons in Melbourne and Sydney


  1. ^ "Joby Talbot: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland", Chester Novello. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  2. ^ Alison Gunn, "The way to Wonderland". Financial Times, 25 February 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  3. ^ Judith Mackrell, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland – review: Royal Opera House", The Guardian, 1 March 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  4. ^ Zoe Anderson, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Royal Opera House, London", The Independent, 1 March 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  5. ^ Sarah Crompton, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Royal Opera House: review", The Telegraph, 1 March 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  6. ^ Citron, Paula (15 November 2012). "National Ballet's Alice reveals itself through tweaks and tinkering". Globe and Mail. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  7. ^ Royal Opera House. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Knave of Hearts Pas de deux (The Royal Ballet). Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  8. ^ Royal Opera House. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - The Caterpillar (The Royal Ballet). Event occurs at 211 seconds. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  9. ^

External links[edit]