Queen City Ballet Company presents the whimsical favorite, Alice in Wonderland, on Mother’s Day weekend, May 7-8 at the Helena Civic Center.
Follow Alice down the rabbit hole in this wildly entertaining ballet inspired by Lewis Carroll’s much-beloved book. In this captivating tale of curiosity and adventure, Alice (danced by Helena High senior Elinor Goehring) is escorted down the rabbit hole by the harried White Rabbit (Sam Stutz, also a Helena High senior). Once in Wonderland, she explores a wondrous garden, joins the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and plays croquet with the infamous Queen of Hearts (danced by both Kaitlyn Ruch and Lizzie Johnson).
Along the way, she meets a beloved cast of colorful characters including the cunning Cheshire Cat, flamingoes, cards, flowers, hedgehogs and more, performed by around 60 dancers from the nationally recognized Queen City Ballet Company and Conservatory dancers.
“Alice’s interactions with all the characters and her exciting adventures are a reminder of the happy, magical innocence of childhood,” says Queen City Ballet’s Artistic Director Campbell Midgley. She adds that the lavish production “is nothing short of spectacular and sure to charm adults and children alike.”
The vibrant sets and elaborate costumes were created and designed by Sandra Kerr of International Ballet School in Denver. Professional dancer Jeremy Studinski, a member of Colorado Ballet’s Corps de Ballet, stars as Mad Hatter and the Knave of Hearts.
Midgley, who danced professionally with Houston Ballet before becoming a teacher, founded Queen City Ballet in Helena in 2001. Over the past 21 years her students have been accepted into professional companies and the top-ranked collegiate dance programs in the country. Like the four leading dancers in this production, many of her students are accepted into prestigious summer intensives and year-round programs, often on full scholarship.
In addition to owning and running Queen City Ballet Conservatory and teaching all levels of ballet, Midgley formed the nonprofit Queen City Ballet Company to produce large-scale productions that typically pair professional guest artists with student performers.
Alice in Wonderland was last performed by Queen City Ballet in 2019, with a second performance postponed due to the pandemic. The story, says Midgley, has always intrigued her, so much so that she choreographed a production in 1999 for the Florence Ballet Company and later built on that production for Queen City Ballet in 2005 and in 2007, with music by composers Grieg, Delibes, Tchaikovsky, Offenbach, Saint-Saens and others.
When her colleagues at International Ballet, Mark Carlson and Sandra Kerr, designed and choreographed a production in Colorado four years ago, “I immediately knew that the use of their sets, costumes and additional choreography would make for a magical production.”
The show debuted at the Helena Civic Center in the spring of 2019, enhanced by vivid digital backdrops. “It was breathtaking and so well received that I was urged to stage it again in 2020,” recalls Midgley. But the pandemic struck, nearly decimating the performing arts across Montana and the nation.
After storing both sets and costumes for two years, Queen City Ballet returns Alice to Wonderland with a mix of new dancers and some from the previous show.
“This production is so much fun to stage and it shows off not only the immense talents of our accomplished dancers but their talents in character roles as well,” says Midgley. “It is a fun ballet to rehearse as well as perform and even more enjoyable to watch.”
Show times are 7 p.m. Saturday, May 7, and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6. For tickets, visit HelenaCivicCenter.com.