Any classical ballet that can hold an audience of 900 Toledo schoolchildren in thrall for two solid hours on a Friday afternoon has legs.
In the case of Toledo Ballet’s stunning Alice in Wonderland, presented in a special matinee on Friday, there were dozens and dozens of legs — turning, kicking, leaping, bourreeing across the Valentine stage.
In what is clearly his best effort yet for the venerable company, artistic director and choreographer Michael Lang has produced an absolutely fresh and charming take on Lewis Carroll’s seminal children’s story.
Members of the Toledo Ballet production of Alice in Wonderland from left: Phillipe Taylor (Mad Hatter), Juliette Morgan Quinlan (Queen of Hearts), and Semira Warrick (Alice).
It is complex and coherent, challenging and accessible. It is colorful, fun, and accented with clever humor.
From the pre-curtain moment when Condessa Croninger, as Aunt Lorina, launches the performance reading “All in the Golden Afternoon,” to the return from Wonderland of Alice, danced admirably by McKenzie Beaverson, this beloved tale comes to life with each step and turn by the huge company.
While first and foremost classically oriented — as is the score, a compilation of recorded hits from Romantic and Impressionist musical eras — the show also folds into its 20 scenes contemporary moves, polkas, and waltzes, some break-dancing, gymnastics, and even a can-can.
There are fabulous puppets by Elizabeth Hayes and her Toledo School for the Arts crew, simple but punchy set pieces and props by James Hill, and Tim Durham’s colorful, definitive lighting.
With but a few technical glitches, the scenes give one onto the other, each introducing some of Carroll’s beguiling characters brought to life by dancers from elementary age to adult. The quality of performances is consistently expert.
Besides Beaverson, a fine actress too, standout performances are turned in by Phillipe Taylor, the Mad Hatter with attitude; Amanda Delverne as Rose, a classic ballerina in a petaled tutu; Semira Warrick, the ever-frantic White Rabbit, and Madyson Starner, whose solos as Mouse are exquisite.
More great dancing and acting are provided by Domonique Glover as Caterpillar; Madeline Rick as March Hare; Laura Blaufuss and Emily Clark as Gryphon and Mock Turtle, and Joseph Galati (Dodo), Sara Lewandowski (Lory), Elizabeth Stuart (Duck), and Byron Barker (Bill the Lizard).
As the Duchess, Tom Laboe is haughty and naughty; Juliette Morgan Quinlan is a comically manic Queen of Hearts, with Michael Warrick as her submissive consort, plus Antonio Winfree in the role of Queen’s Executioner and Sam Gandy as charming Knave.
Warrick and Beaverson will trade roles, depending on the show. Several other small parts also were double cast.
Alice will be presented today and Sunday in the Valentine Theatre. The 8 p.m show today and the 2 p.m. show Sunday are sold out. Tickets remain for today’s 2 p.m. performance. Call 419-242-2787 or visit www.valentinetheatre.com to reserve.