It's the first night of Chanukah, I'm in the middle of grading...clearly, I should be watching ballet. Ahem. I posted at greater length about Alice when I saw the National Ballet of Canada perform it a few months ago, so just a few comments here:
- My sense that the ballet works better in the cinema or on video than on stage continues--it benefits strongly from closeups and editing, especially in the more crowded sequences, like the courtroom scene.
- Of course, on stage you don't lose audio for several minutes at a time. Most of the Cheshire Cat and Caterpillar scenes were totally silent (which, in the case of the latter, meant that the boombox joke at the end didn't work). Fortunately, we did have the Mad Hatter's taps. However...
- ...for me, at least, the Mad Hatter's Tea Party fell utterly flat this time. McRae was great, of course (it's his role), but the sheer nastiness of his characterization needs to be moderated a bit by his interactions with the March Hare and the Dormouse, and he was not in synch with either of them, acting- and sometimes choreography-wise. It's not clear how much rehearsal he got with this March Hare, whom he was having some trouble partnering. Matters weren't helped by the March Hare's total blankness; Ricardo Cervera managed to make the character three-dimensional, but that didn't happen here. Speaking of which...
- ...despite the slaughter of the bunnies, which took out first Edward Watson (the original White Rabbit, injured) and then Cervera (his last-minute replacement, also injured), Alexander Campbell (Cervera's really, really last-minute replacement) was a terrific White Rabbit/Lewis Carroll. Like Dylan Tedaldi, whom I saw with the NBoC, Campbell is Watson's physical opposite in every respect, a classic demi-caractere dancer (short, muscular, compact) rather than tall and leggy. (As Lewis Carroll, he also looked about twelve, which was a little disconcerting; some aging makeup might be in order.) Even if the long arabesque lines Wheeldon developed for Watson didn't always suit Campbell's physique, Campbell's footwork was outstanding and the characterization was just great--that was the best visual rendition of an AARRRRRGHHH I have seen in some time. I found myself watching Campbell more than almost anyone else on stage.
- As the Queen of Hearts, Zenaida Yanowsky continues to own this ballet. The "tart adage" was especially funny; bonus points to Bennet Gartside, the Four of Clubs, who ramped up some of the comic business from last time.
- Bonus points do not go to the camera work. Despite what I said above, some of the decisions made no sense whatsoever, especially in the Mad Hatter's Tea Party ("the Hatter is over there, sir," I found myself muttering at one point, "why are you shooting this minor action over here?"). Similarly, while the closeups help the characterization of Alice and the Knave, they're not so good while they're in the middle of a pas de deux and the audience wants to see, um, the dancing.
- Darcey Bussell is...not a natural interviewer, and perhaps should be politely retired.