Grand Rapids Ballet’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is magical and delights all ages
By Adrienne Warber
A performance of Grand Rapids Ballet’s “Alice in Wonderland” transports you into a true artistic wonderland. The audience explores Lewis Carroll’s world of imagination along with Alice through the lush artwork of award-winning artist Luis Grané, visionary choreography of Brian Enos and the superb dancing of Grand Rapids Ballet. Grand Rapids Ballet’s world premiere of “Alice in Wonderland” is masterpiece that showcased cast talent in an entertaining reimagining of the classic childhood. The show opened last Friday, April 28, at the Peter Martin Wege Theatre in downtown Grand Rapids to a full house. The company will perform eight shows during April 28-30 and May 5-7.
Grand Rapids Ballet’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’
The dancing and choreography as well as the set, special effects and costumes all worked seamlessly to create a Wonderland experience on opening night. The team of Grand Rapids Ballet’s Artistic Director Patricia Barker, Creative Director Michael Auer, choreographer Brian Enos and artist Luis Grané crafted together a show that was delightful to the senses, lovely to watch and thoroughly entertaining.
The inventive show found new ways to express art throughout the production. The Big Muddy Dance Company Artistic Director Brian Enos, who in known for his innovative use of movement, choreographed on Grand Rapids Ballet dancers in a way that brought out the magic of the story. His blend of classical ballet, contemporary movement and other dances styles, such as the tango and jazz, created many memorable dance numbers that were both artistic and entertaining. The dancers performed the numbers with strong technique as well as with a high level of acting skill. The choreography blended beautifully with the artwork of Luis Grané. Award-winning artist Grané, who designed artwork for famous cinematic works like “Hotel Transylvania,” “The Boxtrolls” and “Ratatouille,” created artwork that transformed the stage into a vibrant and engaging Wonderland. Grand Rapids Ballet Creative Director Michael Auer used technology, such as projections and animations, to bring Grané’s to life on stage for each scene. Auer incorporated the technology with an artistry that made the artwork feel so expressive and real, almost like a character itself. Costume Shop Manager Katie Behrens also did a great job on the costumes, designed by Grané. All element of the production came together seamlessly to create an enchanting “Alice in Wonderland” performance.
The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Experience
From the moment the show started on opening night, there was a sense of wonder in the audience. Children leaned forward in their seats eagerly. Adults, young and old, smiled in anticipation as the story began to unfold. There was tangible excitement in the air to see a beloved childhood classic transformed into a ballet.
The audience was in for a treat. This production honored the classic childhood story and delivered a very entertaining and artistically beautiful show.
The show featured a strong cast of dancers, who each brought their character to life with unique personality and highly skilled dance technique. The dancers became the Wonderland characters, and the audience could see their favorite aspects of the story in them. Featured dancers and the corps de ballet danced with great skill and talent.
Cassidy Isaacson played a compelling Alice on opening night that honored the beloved storybook character. Isaacson danced with strong technique and feeling, connecting the audience to the storybook character. Her performance guided the audience through the Wonderland adventure in an enjoyable manner.
Matt Wenckowski portrayed an entertaining White Rabbit at the Friday performance. In many ways, the White Rabbit is iconic to the “Alice in Wonderland” story. Wenckowski danced the role with great skill and a sense of fun. The audience could see elements of wild rabbit mannerisms in his movements.
The show featured many memorable performances. Connie Flachs and Isaac Aoki gave a delightful performance as Tweedledee (Flachs) and Tweedledum (Aoki). Yuka Oba did a great job as the Cheshire Cat in a fun number. Laura McQueen-Schultz and Steven Houser gave a thoroughly entertaining performance as the Queen of Hearts (McQueen-Schultz) and King of Hearts (Houser), bringing humor and fun the characters. But the audience favorite of the evening was the humorous number featuring the Mad Hatter (Nick Schultz), March Hare (Branden Reiners), Door Mouse (Caroline Wiley) and Alice (Cassidy Isaacson). The audience laughed outloud at the funny antics of the Mad Hatter, March Hare and Door Mouse during their tea party encounter with Alice.
The audience gave the cast a standing ovation at the end of the show. As people left the theatre, they were smiling, and some were talking about seeing it again next weekend. Someone talked about reading the Lewis Carroll book. A few people shared laughs while discussing a favorite scene from the show. A couple were in a serious discussion about the symbolism of the story. But the most memorable audience comment was from a little girl of perhaps seven years old, who suddenly declared, “I’m Alice.” Grand Rapids Ballet brought a bit of childhood magic into everyone’s lives in this new production.
Nearly all eight of Grand Rapids Ballet’s performances of “Alice in Wonderland” are sold out. A few limited tickets may still be available. Call Grand Rapids Ballet’s box office at (616) 454-4771, ext. 10 to find out more information about ticket availability.