Only a curmudgeon would complain (and some did, after its 2011 premiere) that Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is more of a show than a ballet, with its tap-dancing Mad Hatter, War Horse-style puppetry and dazzling digital projections – an eclecticism that harks back to a time when ballet productions used every new effect going.
The shaping of the narrative is masterly. An added prologue anchors the factual Alice Liddell in her wealthy Oxford home, where her parents' guests — including Lewis Carroll — reappear transformed in her dream. The unfair dismissal of the gardener's boy, Jack, for stealing jam tarts, sets up the Wonderland courtroom scene where Alice defends the Knave of Hearts — and falls in love with him in the course of a Nutcracker- like pas de deux.
The best of Bob Crowley's set designs draw gasps and grins in equal measure. Most memorable are the Duchess's cottage that opens up to reveal a hell's kitchen of a sausage factory; the flamingo girls at the croquet match, one hand forming the beak and the other the tail; and the little hedgehog children who curl up to be croquet balls.
Principal Lauren Cuthbertson will once again take on the role of Alice, which was created on her; but in other casts look out for the young, joyous Francesca Hayward, whom the role of Alice is bound to fit like a glove. Steven McRae's will reprise his madcap tap-dancing, one of ballet's crowd pleasers, if a tad too long.
As in many 19th-century ballets, you have a wait for the meatiest dance material, and it's not till near the end that Wheeldon stretches his central couple.The real engine powering the show is Joby Talbot's musical score, a storming piece of work spiced with exotic woodwind, James Bond brass, and an ironmongers' worth of percussion.
If you can't make it to Covent Garden, worry not: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland will be relayed live to cinemas across the country on 23 October.
|What||The Royal Ballet, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
27 Sep 17 – 28 Oct 17, 19:30; Sep 30th 13:30 & 19:00; Oct 14th 12:00; Oct 21st & 28th 19:00
|Website||Click here to book via the ROH website|