Theater Review: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

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An exciting, magical stage adaptation of a beloved children's novel.

Studio Tenn presents:
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Dec. 1 – 23; All ages)
Jamison Theater at The Factory
230 Franklin Road, Franklin
615-541-8200 • studiotenn.com
Showtimes: Thu -Fri 7 p.m., Sat 2 & 7 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $30 – $85
Special backstage tours to see the costumes and other fun stuff take place Dec. 9, 10, 16 & 17 for $15

The Pevensie siblings (left to right): Lucy (Bella Higginbotham), Peter (Joe Leitess), Susan (Morgan Davis) and Edmund (Gus O’Brien).

Studio Tenn has given Nashville audiences a lot of great theatrical journeys the past few years. Perhaps its most remarkable to date is  its current run of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Based on C.S. Lewis’ beloved children’s novel of the same name, Studio Tenn’s Lion jumps to life on stage with lots of gusto. Lewis’ story itself is pure gold, and Joseph Robinette’s theatrical adaptation keeps the original arc intact. It’s a tremendous story of how good triumphs evil while drawing the audience in to a powerful story of redemption.

Of course, Lewis fans are aware of the Christian theology woven into the story. In particular, it’s an allegory of Christ’s crucifixion. How that plays out in Narnia is Aslan the Lion (Nathaniel McIntyre; he also portrays Father Christmas) sacrificing himself on behalf of young traitor Edmund Pevensie (Gus O’Brien). Symbolizing Mosaic Law, Aslan is killed on a stone table that later breaks when he comes back to life from the dead.

The World of Narnia On Stage

In the Jamison Theater space, Studio Tenn brings the audience into the home of Professor Digory Kirke, the house where the four Pevensie children dwell upon evacuation from London during World War II. The fabulously talented Kim Bretton portrays Lewis’ goddaughter, Lucy Barfield, and serves as the production’s narrator throughout the show, helping propel the storyline during scene changes. With book in hand, she connects with the audience and never leaves the stage.

Bretton’s placement is beneficial as the professor’s home serves as the main set. Artistic Director Matt Logan’s spectacular scenic design includes a few rolling set pieces to enhance specific Narnia scenes along with dramatic silhouetting and Stephen Moss’ dynamic lighting effects.

Karen Sternberg as the White Witch in Studio Tenn’s “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”

The magical world of Narnia comes by way of giant open doors on both sides and the back of the stage, revealing wintry trees lining the corridors. A captivating, glittery snow falls upon the stage in several Narnia moments. Since we never technically leave the visual of the Professor’s home, putting your imagination to good use is in order. In addition, it’s helpful that Logan assembled a powerful cast that makes the story come to life in a way that undeniably draws you right into the drama and keeps you there.

Cast Kudos

Young Bella Higginbotham portrays a delightful Lucy Pevensie. She brings a lot of charm and childlike wonder to the stage. Higginbotham does an exemplary job in such a significant role. Likewise, O’Brien continues to impress audiences with his role as the Turkish Delight-loving traitor among the siblings. Morgan Davis (Susan) and Joe Leitess (Peter) make their Studio Tenn debuts as the elder Pevensie kids. In such a fanciful story geared toward youngsters, having superb youth talent on the stage is paramount. Studio Tenn exceeds expectations in this arena.

Any theatrical tale of good versus evil is only as strong as its chief villain. Studio Tenn scores high again with Karen Sternberg’s deliciously sinister portrayal of Narnia’s icy White Witch. The actresses’ New York experience is obvious. Her commanding stage presence and dramatic delivery is a theatrical dream come true!

Other favorite performances include Nan Gurley and Matthew Carlton’s endearingly humorous roles as the Beavers. In addition, Brent Maddox (Mr. Tumnus), Jared Reinfeldt (Fenris Ulf) and Taylor Novak (Centaur) provide memorable moments.

A large cast of Narnia creatures adorn the stage, and Logan’s impeccable costume design shines brighter than ever with this collection of highly detailed works of art that sparkle and enhance each character. The White Witch’s dazzling gown is most impressive.

Likewise, Logan’s superior construction of the larger-than-life Aslan walking puppet is outstanding to say the least. McIntyre and Austin Olive provide the lion’s movement while McIntyre voices the giant beast.

Studio Tenn’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a beautiful example of exquisite theater and certainly one of the company’s absolute bests. Enjoyable for the entire family, this spectacular production wholeheartedly captures the magic of Lewis’ beloved work.

 

 

 

 

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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