REVIEW: TCT’s “Narnia” is Magical

By Sherri Ogden Wellington

The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s Narnia the Musical is based on The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe written by C.S. Lewis.  If you haven’t read the book, possibly you have watched the movie, The Chronicles of Narnia.  This production doesn’t follow the movie exactly but they carry the same messages.  This show is magical!

The Plot

The plot is that during WWII, four siblings from England are sent off to the country to get away from the bombings.  While playing hide and seek, one of the children, Lucy,  goes into a wardrobe which leads her into a magical world of Narnia, where the White Witch keeps it cold all of the time and  Christmas never comes.  Lucy’s  three siblings eventually follow and along with the lion they defeat the witch and rule and bring peace in Narnia.  

Cast of “Narnia” at The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. Photos by Mikki Schaffner Photography

Performances

The siblings, Lucy (Stella Ellen D’Ascenzo) and Edmund (Dez Flynn Hutchins) are the younger, more vulnerable of the children. Susan (Elli Maddock) and Peter (Cody Combs) are older and wiser.  Their performances evoke emotions of empathy from children and altruism from adults.  The Professor’s (Brian Anderson) primary role is to explain to the audience what is going on.  With the flick of an imaginary light bulb he has the audience focused on him then another flick of that same bulb the musical goes on.

Cast of “Narnia” at The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. Photos by Mikki Schaffner Photography

Giggles are notable when Mr. and Mrs. Beaver (Henry Howland and Elliet Malatesta) emerge onto the stage, shaking their booties, and making theatrical gestures and well choreographed moves. Who can not resist their antics? By the way, talking about choreography, major kudos to Maddie Jones (Choreographer) and Ben Adams (Fight Choreographer).  One can’t help but appreciate the ensemble in black with black capes swirling and who make prop movements and changes entertaining.  Hearing children asking their parents, “Who are they?” with awe in their voice makes one feel that this is a magical musical.

Favorite characters have to be Tumnus (Alex Harrison), the fawn who kidnaps Lucy only to release her.  He is absolutely adorable.

Creative Team

The staging looks complicated even though each change of scenery is simple and clean, thanks to Tao Wang (Scenic Concept Design) and Nate Bertone/Josh Warner (Scenic Design).  Props go up and down from the ceiling and the floor.  Props are moved side to side and every which way with ease and a bit of a dramatic spark. Lighting Design, Shara Abvabiu, are major contributors to making this production so successful. Lighting Design, Shara Abvabiu, are major contributors to making this production so successful. 

Cast of “Narnia” at The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. Photos by Mikki Schaffner Photography

As always, Roderick Justice (Director of Staging), provides a professional and extremely entertaining show. The music and the sounds that bring the entire show together.  Thanks to Music Director, Mark Femia who gives rise to emotions surrounding the holidays by including various Christmas instrumental pieces throughout the production in a subtle and thoughtful manner.  

Which brings us to the costumes.  Noelle Wedig-Johnston (Costume Design) and Candace Leyland (Wig Master) have an incredible sense of what is mythical and bring it come alive in the creatures that support the Lion, Aslan (John A. Langley) as well as the fawn, the beavers, and definitely  Ryweth/Fenris’  (Ethan Kuchta)  costumes (who are the wolves that support the White Witch) which are amazing.The costumes of the children are true for the 1940’s and the White Witch’s costume is spectacular!  A favorite characterization has to be the White Witches’ Dwarf (Dylan Perres).  His costume, hair, make-up and acting is spot on for who he plays. Father Christmas’ (Matt Lovell) elaborate and mythical costume is elaborate and beautiful.  As always, he is a welcomed addition anywhere he goes.

Puppetry

The largest oohs and ahhs occur when Aslan, the lion, comes on stage!  Aslan is a huge puppet with seven people controlling it.  Magda Guichard (Puppet and Headpiece Design) certainly designed a creature to remember.  John A. Langley (Aslan) has a magnificent voice which commands the stage.  His  is  a voice that demands respect and his ultimate gift of giving his life for Edmund teaches children of bravery,  unselfishness and sacrifice.

Cast of “Narnia” at The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. Photos by Mikki Schaffner Photography

Overall

Everyone in the ensemble is a delight and the special effects make it an amazing show.  It is shocking how focused all the little ones are throughout the show.  Whether you have children or not, Narnia the Musical is a must see!

Narnia the Musical plays December 9, 2023 – December 17, 2023.  Performance times are:  

  • Sunday,   12/10/23 at 2:00 pm
  • Friday,     12/15/23 at 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, 12/16/23 at both 11:00 am & 2:00 pm
  • Sunday,    12/17/23 at 2:00 pm

To purchase tickets and/or get more information go to: https://thechildrenstheatre.com/tickets/