Tag Archives: Lewis Carroll

Curiouser and curiouser: Grand Rapids Ballet’s “Alice” overcomes early flaws to delight


1-LeSIKPJuJ0YJnCELGIxstw

Grand Rapids Ballet’s Cassidy Isaacson and Levi Teachout in “Alice in Wonderland.” Photos by Eric Bouwens.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

For a long time, it’s been a common speculation that iconic novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was the product of mind-altering drugs. The world premiere of Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB)’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” Friday night based on that tale by Lewis Carroll’s (the pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), feeds into that notion. The mind-blowing visual spectacle has the feel of a cross between 1960s psychedelia and Disney’s “Fantasia.” But where award-winning Argentinian visual artist Luis Grané’s colorful and cartoon-like costumes and scenic design was a highlight of the production, slow character development early on in the ballet proved problematic.

Known for his illustration work on such films as “The Matrix” (1999), “Ratatouille” (2007), “Hotel Transylvania” (2012) and “The Boxtrolls” (2014), Grané’s bold visual effects and projections acted as a moving scenic backdrop to the 90-minute multimedia production choreographed by Brian Enos. “Alice” was the first ever full-length story ballet Enos has choreographed. He was up to the challenge for the most part, employing a strategic blend of movement styles that helped illustrate each of the ballet’s characters. The artistic director of St. Louis’ The Big Muddy Dance Company, local audiences may remember Enos from his other ballet created on GRB, 2013’s Scottish-flavored “Nae Regrets.”

Family-friendly (although skewing more toward younger audiences), the ballet was set to a well thought out score of existing music by composers Alfred Schnittke, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev and others compiled by Brendan Hollins. Although not set in the usual Victorian era in favor of a more contemporary look, for the most part Enos followed Carroll’s universally known storyline.

Click here to read on…

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under cultured.GR, Dance Reviews 2017

Deane’s ‘Alice’ Flawed but Fabulous


dsc_3512-1

Set to a mashup of obscure Tchaikovsky compositions compiled and added to by Carl Davis, Deane’s family-friendly Alice stayed faithful to the spirit of Carroll’s very familiar tale. Amanda Cochrane was endearing as the caring but petulant Alice, who pouted, stamped her feet, and bossed around the inhabitants of Wonderland. Alice’s meatiest dancing, however, came in a dream sequence with girlhood crush the Knave of Hearts (William Moore) that was danced not by Cochrane, but rather by “Dream Alice” — Alexandra Kochis, who shined.

dsc_3282-1

(L-R) PBT’s Cooper Verona as the Mad Hatter, Amanda Cochrane as Alice, Masahiro Haneji as the March Hare and Diana Yohe as the Dormouse in Derek Deane’s Alice in Wonderland. Photo by Rich Sofranko.

Alice’s adventure had many stops, including choosing which door to open among many; drinking potions to make her big and small; and interacting with the White Rabbit (Yoshiaki Nakano), the hookah-smoking caterpillar (Joseph Parr) and a cavalcade of fish, fowl and fauna. But the most interesting were her encounters with Ruslan Mukhambetkaliyev as the slinky Cheshire Cat, and with tea-party characters the March Hare (Masahiro Haneji), Mad Hatter (Cooper Verona) and a bubbly-sleepy Diana Yohe as the Dormouse.

Were it not for Julia Erickson’s deliciously wicked performance as the Queen of Hearts, the tandem of Corey Bourbonniere (Duchess) and Jessica McCann (Cook) might have stolen the show. McCann’s frenetic and animated portrayal of the crazed pepper-grinder-wielding cook was outstanding.

Led by Erickson’s masterful performance, the second act, at the Queen’s court, was the Alice audiences crave — full of royal pomp and circumstance, the ballet’s finest choreography, and a zany gathering of all the characters that had the audience losing its head with delight.

dsc_2941-1

PBT’s Yoshiaki Nakano as the White Rabbit and Amanda Cochrane as Alice in Derek Deane’s Alice in Wonderland. Photo by Rich Sofranko.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND at PITTSBURGH BALLET THEATRE continues through Sun., Feb. 19. Fridays, 8 p.m., Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. and Sundays, 2 p.m.; Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown. $28-108. 412-456-6666 or pbt.org

This review originally appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper on February 15, 2017. Copyright Steve Sucato. Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance Reviews 2017, Pittsburgh City Paper