By Judy Tacyn
C.S. Lewis’ Narnia — the fantasy land of talking animals, mythical creatures, a witch and a magical wardrobe — will come to life in the Children’s Theatre of Annapolis’ production of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which runs from February 1 through 10.
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is a children’s story, first published in 1950, and is the first of seven novels in “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. Four English children discover a magic wardrobe can transport them to Narnia, where they soon learn they are to save Narnia from Jadis the White Witch, a ruler who has kept Narnia in perpetual winter for 100 years.
Although released in 1950, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is still relevant today because the story speaks to familiar themes of power, trust, family and belief. “Regardless of the time setting, these motifs are timeless,” said Michelle Bruno, the play’s director. “They speak to the trappings of humanity.”
Actors ages 8 to 18 make up the cast and crew of the production. While that may seem like a wide range of ages, Bruno said the entire cast will benefit.
“The challenge in working with a wide range of ages is that there is a wide range of experience,” Bruno said. “But this is a good thing. If you are just starting out in theater, or are younger, you have cast members to look up to, to emulate. Older cast members have a chance to mentor and see their craft through newer eyes.”
Bruno calls the cast “brilliant,” and added that she continues to be inspired by their professionalism and maturity in tackling the more adult themes.
“The kids have been exploring character development and how literature can move from the mind to stage, from a book to a play,” Bruno said. “They have been encouraged to read or reread the novel, and then develop a backstory around their character that gives more detail than the story. This allows them to bring an authenticity to their character work and play. Additionally, the actors have been exploring stage combat and the more physical aspects of acting.”
Audiences will be transported to a magical land through larger-than-life sets, beautiful costumes, and brilliant acting and storytelling. The play, Bruno said, is true to the story.
“The sets are lush, bold and dynamic. The costumes are beautiful, colorful and striking,” Bruno added. “The great thing about working at CTA is the volunteers. The expertise that we are able to draw from to produce and create our productions never fails to impress me.”
Arden Tierney, and Arnold resident and sophomore in the Performance and Visual Arts program at Annapolis High School, plays Queen Jadis, the White Witch. She’s been part of the Children’s Theatre of Annapolis since she 5 years old.
“I was really excited to audition for this play because I love non-musicals,” Tierney. said “Plus, I really love playing a villain. I was elated when I learned I got the part of Queen Jadis. She’s complex, and I really like her.”
Bruno said that a fantasy piece can be more complicated than a normal play or even a musical.
“I think the hardest part of producing a fantasy piece is creating the realism within the fantasy world,” Bruno said. “There has to be some sort of tether to the audience to allow them to connect to the piece. Additionally, there is a creative license and fun aspect that one can have with fantasy, as it is a fantasy. It really is up to one’s imagination. But with a story as beloved as ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,’ there are elements that must remain and must be kept.”
Arnold resident Gabrielle Dean plays Susan, the second oldest of the Pevensie children. Dean is a sophomore in the Performance and Visual Arts program at Annapolis High School; she’s been acting since she was 7 years old. She was excited to audition for this production because “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was one of her favorite stories when she was younger.
“I auditioned because I really wanted to try out for a straight play rather than a musical,” Dean said. “The most exciting part of this story is all of the action and anticipation between the two sides.”
Dean hopes the audience will be thrilled with not only the heart-warming moments but also the action-packed moments.
“Everyone has been doing a fantastic job,” she said, “and I’m so grateful to be working with such a great cast.”
Bruno said she was an avid reader growing up, and C.S. Lewis was one of her favorite authors. “The lands and characters he created enchanted me,” she said. “To be able to put what I envisioned as I read his stories on to the stage has been nothing short of fantastic.”
For tickets to “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” visit cta.ticketleap.com.