As the curtain opens on “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” performed by the National Ballet of Canada at the Kennedy Center, we’re in familiar territory. That is, it’s familiar if you’re among the fans of the hit PBS series “Downton Abbey,” for the ballet’s first moments take place on the grounds of a palatial manor in the English countryside, where a garden party is being prepared with yards of white linen, platters of pastries and much fussing over flowers.
But instead of the emotionally repressed aristocracy of the TV show, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon gives us something more delicious: a psychotic hostess in excelsis, who terrorizes her family and the servants and fires the gardener’s boy with sadistic zeal. Portrayed on Friday’s opening night by Greta Hodgkinson, the crazy lady of the house is all sharp angles and dagger-like pointes, a spidery creature whose outsize temper fills the stage.
She’s also the mother of young Alice (a spunky, effervescent Jillian Vanstone), and she will reappear as the implacable Queen of Hearts when her daughter tumbles down the rabbit hole into the dream world where the rest of the ballet unfolds. That’s a good thing, because Hodgkinson’s over-the-top Mommie-Dearest-on-a-tear is the most fully realized character in this ballet, which continues at the Opera House through Jan. 27.