C. S. Lewis’ popular middle-grade fantasy series about friendship, forgiveness, and sacrifice is brought to the stage as the last offering of The Ninth Hour’s Into the Wardrobe season.
Should you see it?
For those of you new to the world of Narnia, the story follows siblings Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund as they fall into this magical world through an enchanted wardrobe. Once there, they discover that they are the keys to restoring this wintery land to its former glory – but not before Edmund selfishly sides with the evil White Witch who did away with Narnia’s good king Aslan in the first place. Will the lion king return and save his people, or will the world be cursed with ice and snow forever?
This isn’t the Narnia from your childhood imagination or even recent cinematic ventures. For one thing, it’s a musical complete with beavers singing about the joys of spring and miscellaneous forest inhabitants dancing around in the spirit of Christmas. For another, our villain is now a fiery-haired jazz singer on stilts and our beloved lion friend is a raggedy, six-legged cartoon.
While the world of Narnia came alive through beautiful sets and costumes, the Aslan puppet was really out of place. It didn’t feel majestic or powerful at all and just didn’t do it for me. I was also really underwhelmed by the tableau approach to stage fighting and the use of blackouts during climactic battle scenes. As someone who hadn’t read the books or seen the movie upon which this show is based, I felt I didn’t care about the outcome of these fights and the character development of Peter and Susan was lacking.
Luckily, there were some stand out performances upon which I could focus my attention. I really liked the instrumental accompaniment to the sixteen songs in this show: the musicians played well together and sounded lovely. Gabrielle Lalonde was entertaining as the self-centered, purely wicked White Witch and I thoroughly enjoyed the work of her key henchman Fenris Ult (Robin Hodge). Clara Silcoff’s performance of Lucy really stole the show. Her characterization was the perfect mix of adorable, precocious child and brave, compassionate little girl – not to mention how unbelievably powerful and beautiful Silcoff’s singing voice is. She is definitely an actress to watch for!
Given the talent on stage, I feel like this show had a lot of potential but the script reminded me of an after-school special from the 1960s and the over two hour run time felt really long. Generally speaking, this wasn’t an elegant production but that didn’t stop the audience from having fun. While I personally found a lot of the content schmaltzy and contrived, the children around me seemed to be riveted by the tale of good versus evil so perhaps grown ups are simply not the target audience for this production
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did Narnia: The Musical live up to your expectations? Are you a big C.S. Lewis fan or was this your introduction to his work? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!