The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Director – Ray Jeffery, Musical Director – Bryan Cass
This modern classic tale has been televised, filmed and now turned into a musical. What a contrast with Young Gen’s last musical outing – Les Miserables. Where the latter was dark, powerful and moving this was light, jolly and somewhat fleeting in its appeal to the emotions. Unfortunately, few of the songs were very memorable. Nevertheless, this show really did suit the much younger cast, giving them plenty to do in the ensembles, either as the supporters of Aslan or the more sinister supporters of the White Witch, while providing fifteen principals with dialogue. It says much about the depth of talent at Young Gen that many of these roles were double cast.
With a fixed set of snowy mountains and paths, hidden behind a curtain during the Spare Room scenes, there was precious little space at stage level and this limited movement somewhat when the whole company was on stage. Nevertheless, the availability of the three levels and steps did provide plenty of opportunity for spectacular and colourful tableaux. Lack of space actually made the slow motion battle scene at the end even more impressive since this was a hugely realistic melee of children fighting but each individual fight was choreographed and closely linked to the children around to avoid accidents. The variety of costumes and colour, dominated by the physically larger presence of the White Witch and Aslan made the final scene compelling.
What has become apparent over the years is the attention to detail that the director pays to accents. The beautiful English vowels of the 1940s were very evident in the dialogue of the four lead children. Perhaps they speak like that normally but I suspect not. We were instantly cast back to a time when crisp clear vowel sounds was the norm amongst middle class children and with the additional support from a sympathetic dialogue we knew we were witnessing an event from a different age. Even better, the children showed no hint of self-consciousness at such dialogue, manners and general deportment and maintained a bygone innocence throughout that was hugely endearing and essential for the credibility of the whole piece.
The sulky truculence of Edmund (Matthew Hedges), the wide-eyed innocence of Lucy (Emily Ford), the motherly instincts of Susan (Charlotte Broad) and the adult assurance of Peter (Elliott Elder) contributed to a strong family unit. Each of these young actors had convincing vocals when speaking or singing. Samuel Wolstenholme made an endearing Mr Tumnus, delightfully costumed, wigged and made up, with strong dialogue, singing and movement. Eve French was impressive as the White Witch, commanding physically and vocally, but conveying subtlety when needed. Jayden Booroff and Rebecca Clarke as Mr and Mrs Beaver respectively, were somehow the most animal-like of all the cast. The costumes and the teeth, accented with small hints of human dress, created a very engaging effect, particularly as they were a matching pair. Tom Tull as Aslan had a huge physical presence which was matched by a strong bass voice.
Reviewer – Stewart Adkins NODA East – Regional Representative, District 8