It’s the beloved tale of a young girl who abandons her family’s party, runs after a white rabbit and tumbles through a rabbit hole. Only, in this version, she lands on The Smith Center stage.
Nevada Ballet Theatre will close its 47th season with the Las Vegas premiere of Septime Webre’s “Alice (In Wonderland)” this weekend.
And if the classic novel and multiple movies that followed evoke images of technicolor creatures, fantastical lands and eccentric characters, the ballet is sure to delight.
The ballet follows Alice as she navigates a strange world alongside a motley crew of friends — and enemies — including the Queen of Hearts, Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter.
“It’s wonderful,” Nevada Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Roy Kaiser says. “It’s visually incredible. The sets and costumes are bright and vibrant. Plus, the choreography is stunning.”
The choreography is highlighted in a sequence between Alice, played by Betsy Lucas, and Cheshire Cat, portrayed by Steven Goforth.
The dance opens with Goforth taking on the stature of a cat, delighting Lucas’ Alice with purrs and pawing at her legs. Then, suddenly bipedal, they rush into an elaborate, aerobic routine.
In one sequence of lifts, Alice steps onto Cheshire Cat’s open palm. He hoists her into the air where she completes something like a midair cartwheel before falling with practiced clumsiness into his arms — upside-down and with legs splayed in either direction.
“This choreography in particular has quite challenging partnering aspects,” Lucas says. “Alice is kind of a ballerina character but also in and out of scenes with contemporary-style partnering. It’s flipping back and forth in this ballet move, then flexing my feet in the air — on purpose.”
The contemporary style comes forward to characterize Alice and Cheshire Cat with silly touches such as awkward landings and enthusiastic lifts.
“It matches the music,” Lucas says. “It gets quirky. Webre likes those
“Alice’s” expansive cast of characters borrows 60 dancers from NBT Academy students, making the production almost as large as December’s “Nutcracker.” Young dancers breathe life into playing cards, flamingos and hedgehogs.
In one scene, the playing cards assemble themselves into hoops for a game of croquet. Young dancers in the roles of flamingos guide the hedgehog characters through the game.
“That one is challenging with so many moving parts,” Lucas says. “With so many people on stage, it can get a little hectic.”
Other scenes realize Lewis Carroll’s characters with a flying apparatus, a 25-foot-long jabberwocky puppet operated by seven dancers and oversized props such as a huge keyhole that create the illusion of Alice growing and shrinking.
“It fills the stage,” Kaiser says. “It’s consistent from beginning to end.”
With the help of inventive choreography and meticulously detailed costumes, Alice journeys through iconic scenes such as a mad tea party and run-ins with a caterpillar and his hookah.
“I grew up with the story,” Lucas says. “She’s an interesting character with spunk and a vivid imagination. The story continues to be predominant even in today’s world.”
If you go
What: “Alice (In Wonderland)”
Where: The Smith Center for the Performing Arts
When: 7:30 p.m. on May 3, 4; 2 p.m. on May 4, 5
Tickets: From $29 at nevadaballet.org