BWW JR: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
There are two things I'll say right from the start about Off-Broadway Family Theatre's production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe now playing at St. Luke's Theatre: It's one of the best pieces of family theatre I've seen since I started this column almost a year ago, and five minutes in my daughter whispered in my ear, "I really hate this."
The reason my daughter "hated it" at first was partially my fault and partially just the way things are in this day of over-produced extravaganza and video-assisted spectacle. For my part, I should have waited until my daughter had read the book. It's next up for her book club (They just finished "Caddie Woodlawn" and are moving on to "Harriet the Spy"), and I know that if she'd had the pleasure of recognizing familiar characters and scenes she would have been much more excited to see it represented so sparsely but with so much heart and accuracy.The reason it's one of the best I've seen is because of it's inventiveness, it's powerful story telling, and the pure, raw talent that has gone into creating and performing this two-person retelling of C.S. Lewis' classic novel. Two young performers, one of whom is fresh off the bus with a brand new MFA in his hand, effortlessly transform themselves into all of the book's characters....human, animal and fantastical....with only the help of the occasional scarf, pair of glasses and a light cue.
About three quarters through, we got to the scene of Aslan's torture and death. No spoilers here since pretty much everyone who can read has read The Chronicles of Narnia, and those who haven't have probably caught the movie. In typical fashion, my daughter grabbed my hand and gave me a worried glance....I'm sorry that she had to be unhinged but glad that something caught her attention. From then on, "I Hate it" turned into , "Shhhh!" and "What are those? Stone statues or people turned to stone." By the end of the show, this past year of Broadway shows and video games melted away and my daughter started to engage and listen.Because everything in Narnia was new to her, I found myself explaining much of the show to my daughter as it went along. It's a children's show, enjoyable to adults yet fashioned for kids, but telling such a complex tale in under an hour with only two actors might require a little help from a whispering grown-up if the child hasn't read the story. I hope they are still running once we get through reading the book so that we can return to St. Luke's Theatre and see the show with new insight.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show from start to finish, and my daughter ended up having a good time by the end. More importantly, she got a taste of the real magic of theatre...two actors and a director making something from nothing....and my daughter is now eager to read the book and experience all that C.S. Lewis has to offer. We may also catch the film. I'm not fancy.
GET TO THE POINT, MOM!
- A bare-bones, highly inventive retelling of C.S. Lewis' classic tale.
- Now playing at the St. Luke's Theatre on W 46th St., Saturdays at 11 AM.
- For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.narniaoffbroadway.com.
- We're not fancy.