REVIEW: TCT’s Winter Adventure “Narnia The Musical”

By Matt Omasta

Fans of the C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe will be swept away by The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s Narnia The Musical. Excitement, wonder, and a touch of Christmas spirit fill this production of the adaptation created by Jules Tasca (book), Thomas Tierny (music), and Ted Drachman (lyrics). The piece captures major moments from the original story in an accessible seventy-minute format. While avid fans may notice a few departures from the book, they will surely enjoy this mystical stage experience.

The Story

The production shares the tale of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, who escape wartime London to their uncle’s home in the countryside. This is only the first leg of the journey, however, as they are transported through a magical wardrobe to Narnia. This land of fauns and talking animals has been seized by the White Witch, who imposes a never-ending winter without Christmas. The children join Aslan, the true king, to conquer her dark forces and their own inner struggles.

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

The World of Narnia The Musical & Its Creators

As we enter the theatre, set designers Nate Bertone and Josh Warner along with lighting designer Shara Abvabi capture our imaginations with a mostly dark stage featuring a large and prominent wardrobe; a simple visual that implies much more is in store within its doors the play we are about to experience. Their elegant approach effectively accentuates the storytelling as the world builds to include London, the countryside, and eventually the captivating world of Narnia. Music director Mark Femia immerses us further into the story with a cinematic score of orchestral holiday music that effectively amplifies the tensions and celebrations the children experience throughout their adventure. 

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

Director Roderick Justice and Choreographer Maddie Jones fascinate us with magnificent movement pieces throughout. For example, early in the show they employ the ensemble (outfitted by costume designer Noelle Wedig-Johnston in all black, with flowing capes and intriguing headpieces) to create a scene where the children travel by train. What begins with realistic suggestions of passengers in a railway station becomes a visually engaging journey wherein suitcases transform into train cars as we are whisked to the countryside. Upon arriving at the house, full of ‘Doors and Windows,’ the children roam the hallways as the ensemble dances with moving door frames in among the first of many visually enchanting moments. Likewise, fight director Ben Adams later creates in a thrilling, yet family-friendly sword fight we can’t take our eyes off.

The Actors

A stellar cast propels the story, including several members of TCT’s Young Artists Company.  Elli Maddock (Susan) embodies nuanced complexity that illustrates how her character can become a Queen of Narnia in this play, yet eventually (as those familiar with later books in the Narnia series know) fall from grace. Indeed, all actors portraying young people (Cody Combs as Peter, Stella Ellen D’Ascenzo as Lucy, and Dez Flynn Hutchens as Edmund) wonderfully demonstrate young children’s sophisticated, multifaceted natures.

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

Parents will relate with the hilarious bickering of Mr. & Mrs. Beaver (Henry Howland & Elliet Malatesta), and everyone is sure to appreciate the antics of Dylan Perez as the Dwarf, a riotous evil sidekick with sly humor that speaks to young people’s sensibilities without ever talking down to them.

While some moments of action may be daunting for very young or particularly timid audience members, families are sure to enjoy this classic tale, perfectly suited for the season. 

Tickets to Narnia The Musical

For tickets to Narnia The Musical, go to the TCT website. You can also call their Box Office at 513-569-8080 x10, Monday through Friday 9AM to 5PM. Narnia has shows at 7 pm Friday Dec. 15, Saturday at 11 am and 2 pm, and Sunday, December 17 at 2 pm.

Matt Omasta is Professor and Chair of Miami’s Department of Theatre. He has multiple publications and directing credits. He specializes in theatre for young people. This is his first season as an LCT reviewer.