Graduating senior Alison Kendler as the Mad Hatter. Photo: Jenn Mazza.
We never stick with the Disney version of anything at Milwaukee Ballet. If you just saw Peter Pan or if you saw Alice in Wonderland two years ago, you know that we like to tell stories the way the authors intended. From the lobsters to the pool of tears, the dancing cards and the King and Queen of Hearts, Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy’s production of Alice in Wonderland will take you down the rabbit hole with over 500 students this weekend from our Jodi Peck Center, Riverpoint and Towne Centre branches.
Students from ages 4 to 19 are all featured in the show – level by level they depict the wonderment and delight of Lewis Caroll’s story – teacups and turtles alike.
Rolando Yanes crafted the show and he presents it again, this year in the new downtown location of MATC’s Cooley Auditorium. On Saturday, June 2 you can see the students of Riverpointe at noon, Towne Centre at 4:00 p.m. and on Sunday June 3 you can see the students from Jodi Peck Center at noon.
Monica Isla’s pre-ballet students cannot wait! She told me that her little flowers, bumblebees and bunnies have been counting down the days until their on stage! You won’t want to miss them – they’re adorable! We’ll be celebrating the graduating seniors Brooke Bero, Kylie Dolphin, Amelia Foss, Alison Kendler, Kelsey Lagerman, Stacey Schuett and Casey Stefanowski and our scholarship winning students Ahna Lipchik and Lizzie Tripp as well.
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what it is wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” ~ Alice in Wonderland, Walt Disney, 1951
“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ”I – I hardly know, Sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.” ~ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865.
We begin the curious tale of Alice in Wonderland in a lovely garden where Alice’s sister is trying to read her a book. The garden, full of flowers, bees and bunnies is so distracting that Alice cannot sit still – she would rather frolic in nature. Just then, a White Rabbit runs by mumbling, “I’m late! I’m late!” Alice can’t resist following a rabbit with a pocket-watch and off she goes, farther perhaps than she had planned. In fact, she falls down, down, down a very strange rabbit hole.
When she emerges Alice is dismayed to find that she has shrunk to half her size! She continues to look for the White Rabbit but she starts crying and just can’t stop; she cries an entire pool of tears. Suddenly a group of Wild Birds swoops in through the tears, distracting Alice from her troubles. The Birds tell her they’ve run a big race and that they’ve all won. Just as Alice is about to award them a prize, the White Rabbit reappears, looking for his gloves and fan. He mistakes Alice for his housemaid and orders her to go search for his things. As she leaves, the Caterpillars enter and dance, eventually transforming into Butterflies that flutter their way into the living garden.
Alice, who continues to shrink and grow in this strange Wonderland, comes running into the garden, much taller this time. She encounters a mischievous, grinning Cheshire Cat. The Cheshire Cat tells Alice she might want to go “this way to meet the Mad Hatter,” or “that way to meet the March Hare.” Finally these odd characters enter, bringing the tea party and a sleeping Dormouse with them. They insist there is no room for Alice and she proclaims them all to be mad. A group of crazy, twirling tea-pots dance and dance as the Dormouse falls asleep again.
As the curtain rises a group of cards is frantically painting the roses red, in fear of the evil Queen of Hearts. Alice has yet to meet the Queen but just then, she and the King make a grand entrance. When the Queen sees that the roses have been painted she banishes the painters and Alice escorts them away from the court. Alice is happy to run into the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse, despite her conviction that they are as mad as everyone else in Wonderland. They come back into the castle where they happen upon the Queen again. She asks Alice, “Have you ever seen a Gryphon?”
“Why no, I do not even know what a Gryphon is,” replies Alice.
“And what about a Mock Turtle?” barks the Queen.
“I’ve only seen a real turtle,” says Alice.
“Well here they are, you ignorant young girl!” screams the Queen, and indeed there they are -a Gryphon and a Mock Turtle who dance and then take Alice to see the Lobster Quadrille. Imagine that -dancing lobsters!?
Just when Alice thinks things could not possibly get any more peculiar, she hears the fanfare of the King and Queen. In they come, followed by the Court of Cards, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse and the White Rabbit. The Queen is furious! Everything in Wonderland is out of order thanks to this intruder Alice! She demands a trial. The White Rabbit puts forth the evidence and it is up to Alice to attempt to defend herself.
Alice recounts the curious way in which her day started – falling down a rabbit hole. She describes how in Wonderland she can shrink and grow. This is too much nonsense for the Queen, who runs away in horror. By now, Alice is exhausted by this place where nothing makes any sense. She collapses, falling into a deep sleep during which she dreams about the King and how friendly he must be. In her dream they dance peacefully and she ponders all of the colorful characters she’s met on this adventure in Wonderland.
When Alice awakes, she is delighted to find out that this had been nothing but a dream – there was the bench in the garden and the book her sister had tried to read to her! Perhaps the next time she wouldn’t go chasing rabbits.
Director of Community Outreach