Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (ballet)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a ballet in three acts by Christopher Wheeldon with a scenario by Nicholas Wright, based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. 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] It is also the first full-length narrative ballet commissioned by The Royal Ballet since 1995.[2]

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
ChoreographerChristopher Wheeldon
MusicJoby Talbot
Based onAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Premiere28 February 2011 (2011-02-28)
Royal Opera House
Original ballet companyThe Royal Ballet
DesignBob Crowley
Created forLauren Cuthbertson
TypeClassical ballet


The work is based on Lewis Carroll's 1865 well-known children's book 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.[3]

Karen Kain, the artistic director of National Ballet of Canada contacted the Royal Ballet and proposed a co-production after learning about the ballet.[4] The company had the production's North American premiere in 2011, starring Jillian Vanstone.[5]

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]

The ballet had since been performed by Royal Swedish Ballet in 2016, Royal Danish Ballet in the 2016-17 season and The Australian Ballet in 2017.[7][8][9]


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 falsely accused of stealing a jam tart. (In actuality, Alice gave it to him.)

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.[10]
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.[11]

Reviews of premiereEdit

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".[12][13] 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.".[14]


Role World premiere[15] 2017 DVD[16]
Alice Lauren Cuthbertson
Jack/The Knave of Hearts Sergei Polunin Federico Bonelli
Lewis Carroll/The White Rabbit Edward Watson James Hay
Mother/The Queen of Hearts Zenaida Yanowsky Laura Morera
Father/The King of Hearts Christopher Saunders
Magician/The Mad Hatter Steven McRae
Rajah/The Caterpillar Eric Underwood Fernando Montaño
The Duchess Simon Russell Beale Gary Avis
Vicar/The March Hare Ricardo Cervera Paul Kay
Verger/The Dormouse James Wilkie Romany Pajdak
The Cook Kristen McNally
Footman/Fish Ludovic Ondiviela Tristan Dyer
Footman/Frog Kenta Kura David Yudes
Alice's Sisters Leanne Cope
Samantha Raine
Meaghan Grace Hinkis
Beatriz Stix-Brunell
Butler/Executioner Philip Mosley Harry Churches


The 2011 production and 2017 Royal Ballet revival are filmed and released on DVD, both starred Lauren Cuthbertson as the title role.[16][17]

In light of the impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on the performing arts, Royal Danish Ballet released a recording of a performance online, which featured Holly Dorger as Alice.[18]


  1. ^ "Joby Talbot: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland", Chester Novello. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  2. ^ "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland – review". The Guardian. 6 March 2011.
  3. ^ Alison Gunn, "The way to Wonderland". Financial Times, 25 February 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  4. ^ "National Ballet brings splashy new Alice to Toronto". CBC News. 2 June 2011.
  5. ^ "Becoming Alice". National Ballet of Canada. 5 February 2019.
  6. ^ Citron, Paula (15 November 2012). "National Ballet's Alice reveals itself through tweaks and tinkering". The Globe and Mail.
  7. ^ "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". Det Kongelige Teater. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Välkommen till Arkivet". Kungliga Operan (in Swedish). Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  9. ^ "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". The Australian Ballet. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  10. ^ Royal Opera House. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Knave of Hearts Pas de deux (The Royal Ballet). Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  11. ^ Royal Opera House. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - The Caterpillar (The Royal Ballet). Event occurs at 211 seconds. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  12. ^ Judith Mackrell, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland – review: Royal Opera House", The Guardian, 1 March 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  13. ^ Zoe Anderson, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Royal Opera House, London", The Independent, 1 March 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  14. ^ Sarah Crompton, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Royal Opera House: review", The Telegraph, 1 March 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  15. ^ "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - 28 February 2011 Evening 7.30pm". Royal Opera House Collections Online.
  16. ^ a b "Talbot, J.: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland [Ballet] (Royal Ballet, 2017) (NTSC)".
  17. ^ "Talbot, J.: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Royal Ballet, 2011) (NTSC)".
  18. ^ "Alice i Eventyrland". Det Kongelige Teater (in Danish). Archived from the original on 14 May 2020.

External linksEdit