The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We all know the story, and I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. However, despite the story being pretty much identical to its source material, this production brought a breath of fresh air to the adventure. It’s hard to adapt source material that is so well-known, but this musical did an excellent job of re-telling the story and capturing my heart in the way the 2005 film did when I was a child.
If you’re somehow unaware of the plot of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, it is the first published (but second in order) book in The Chronicles of Narnia series. It follows four siblings, Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy Pevensie, as they are evacuated from London during World War II and go on to live with a professor. To their surprise, the wardrobe in the professor’s spare room is actually a portal to another world, Narnia. Living in terror under the White Witch’s reign, Narnia has lived in winter for over one hundred years, and only the prophesied humans can bring spring again.
I don’t even know where to begin with this production. I thought the set designs were excellent, and the distinctions between the human world and Narnia were made very clear from the use of physical props, lighting and ensemble. For instance, when the children stepped into the wardrobe, the lights would dim to black and illuminate the doors which were being transported by the ensemble. After that, they then changed to white lighting with other ensemble members wearing all white with parasols to appear as snowy trees as a snow machine brought the woods to life.
In contrast to the wintery Narnia, the lighting would change to a warm orange glow when inside the houses of Mr Tumnus and the Beaver family to portray their kind natures. I also enjoyed the circle that overlooked the stage, where they used to portray Aslan’s overwatching eyes or the White Witch’s evil gaze. For a fairly minimal set, the ensemble brought the different locations to life.
The costume designs and puppetry were also stellar. The puppet for Aslan was an impressive feature piece whenever it was on stage. I also enjoyed that the wolves dashed across the floor with crutches in their hands so that they could bounce in an animalistic manner. Another attention to detail which I loved was towards the end where the children have grown up in Narnia and we see Mr Tumnus again, with a visibly greyer beard and a grey fluffy jumper to demonstrate how much time has passed. I also cannot talk about the costuming without mentioning the White Witch and her luxurious, glittery outfits and fur coats!
For a musical, it didn’t have many songs. However, I did enjoy that the songs that it had were very folk-inspired, which set the scene of an ancient woodland.
The entire cast was very talented, and I’m always left in awe when cast members are playing instruments, acting in roles and singing. Although the entire cast was fantastic, I particularly enjoyed the performances of Samantha Womack (Eastenders) as the White Witch and Chris Jared as Aslan. I felt invested in their hatred for each other, and I believe that they captured the essence of their opposing characters perfectly. I even heard a child behind me cry when (spoiler) Aslan died, so that’s when you know it’s a compelling performance.
Whilst all of the Pevensie children were excellent, my personal favourites were Shaka Kalokoh as Edumund and Karise Yansen as Lucy, as,= once again, their distinct personalities were encapsulated in their performances.
Overall, I adored this show. It has very few faults, and it was the perfect show to see just before Christmas. This production is easily one of the best I have seen recently, and it is worthy of a 5-star rating.