BWW Review: THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE at the Stratford Festival is a Magical Experience
THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (from Schulich Children's Plays) opened at Stratford Festival's Avon Theatre on what became a magical Thursday evening. Based on the book by C.S. Lewis and dramatized by Adrian Mitchell, this production, directed by Tim Carroll is enchanting and fun for the entire family.
The play tells the story of 4 siblings: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy who have been evacuated from London during the Second World War and sent to live in the home of Professor Kirk (portrayed by the always fantastic Tom McCamus). It is there that they find a wardrobe that transports them to the magical land of Narnia, and it is there that they come into their own and decide what kind of people they want to be through the adventures they have with an array of mystical and magical creatures.
The casting of the four siblings is absolutely perfect. Sara Farb prances about the stage with youthful wonder and innocence as Lucy; Gareth Potter gives us a Peter who is on the verge becoming a man and is determined to find out exactly what needs to be done in order to do so; Ruby Joy portrays Susan as being playful at times and serious at others, and André Morin is superb as the complicated Edmund, who, more than anyone else, undergoes a significant transformation throughout the play.
As the White Witch, Yanna McIntosh commands the stage and creates a fantastic 'bad guy' for the audience to root against. As her Troll sidekick, Josue Laboucane is delightfully devious and so very fun to watch.
The rest of the cast is excellent as well-and their performances are amplified by the costumes, set design and puppetry that they are working with. The set design by Douglas Paraschuk immediately immerses the audience first in the world of the Professor's home and then the world of Narnia. Similarly, the costumes by Dana Osborne are not only gorgeous, but they are also fun! They make it easy for audience members of all ages to slip into the imaginative world in front of them. Both the set (including a screen that occasionally includes projections of the book's text) and many of the costumes emphasize that this is a story that comes from a book. Even the horns of some of the animals appear to be made of papier-mâché pages from C.S. Lewis' book. This is also true of the glorious puppet of Aslan the Lion (also played by Tom McCamus)-the one character to receive entrance applause! Aslan's mane and body are made up of pages of the book. He is absolutely beautiful. The creative team has outdone itself!
Along with the stunning scenery and costumes, this show also has a few fun and catchy songs. The music adds an additional richness to the production, and the singing voices of the likes of Mike Nadajewski (as Mr. Tumnus), Sara Farb, Steve Ross (as Mr. Beaver) and Barbara Fulton (as Mrs. Beaver) can never go wrong!
This play is the perfect thing for families to see together when visiting the Stratford Festival. It has a classic story, a magical world come to life through costume and design, delightful music, and actors very clearly having the time of their lives. There are also some special jokes included just for the adults. THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Your imagination will be better for it...no matter how old you are!
THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE runs in Repertory at the Avon Theatre until October 22
Photo Credit: David Hou