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Delight in community musical about Mr Tumnus and friends
CS Lewis's classic and timeless fantasy tale was given a wonderfully youthful and vibrant makeover in this delightful community production at the Lichfield Garrick theatre in Staffordshire. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, first published almost 70 years ago in 1950, was chosen by the Lichfield Garrick Production Company to be its Community Musical for 2019. And what a splendid choice they made. Under Jonny McClean's excellent direction, the Garrick stage was at first transformed into a rambling English country estate, then to the winter wonderland of magical Narnia, and finally back again. The pivotal moments when the children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, go through a wardrobe connecting wartime England with Narnia are always convincingly done - made more so on the first couple of occasions by extremely realistic-looking snow falling from the theatre ceiling onto the stage and half the audience.
Lucy and Edmund (left) discover magical Narnia. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
The show, which I saw at Lichfield Garrick during its well-supported run between Tuesday 23 July and Saturday 27 July, has a cast of 62 actors, the majority of whom have never been on a stage before, and also comprising lots of clearly talented children. The story opens with the Pevensie children - the aforementioned Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy - boarding a train with loads of other children during the evacuation of London during the Blitz. Once at the home of the kindly but mysterious Professor Kirk, Lucy stumbles through the secret passageway and ends up in Narnia where she meets the fawn, Mr Tumnus.
The White Witch (Ellicia Smith) makes an impressive entrance. Pamela Raith Photography
The story then continues true to fashion, much as it has done to generations of children over the past seven decades. The only possible exception, unless my recollection has been lightened over the years, is that Peter seems excessively 'beastly' to his brother Edmund after the younger sibling teases Lucy over claims of her discovery. As this production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a musical, various members of the cast burst into pretty pleasant sounding songs from time to time, starting with a duet involving Lucy and Mr Tumnus and including a number that my wife couldn't stop repeating on the drive home. In the true CS Lewis (his initials stand for Clive Staples) script, we are eventually introduced to the evil White Witch, who has turned Narnia into "always winter, never Christmas", and, of course, the 'lion' of the story in the guise of Aslan.
Aslan, played by Nick Baker, talks to Lucy (Molly Summers). Pamela Raith Photography
For me, Ellicia Smith steals the show as the White Witch, but there are plenty of other notable performances throughout, including Adam Pritchard, Harriet Caddick, Ben Ogden and Molly Summers as the four central children, Nick Baker, who takes on a dual role as both Aslan and the professor, Ivor Williams and Denise Baker as Mr and Mrs Beaver, dressed as if for an Arctic convoy, and Eric Hastilow as the wicked witch's nasty henchman, Grumpskin. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe continues at the Lichfield Garrick until Saturday 27 July. Tickets priced from £13.50 are hopefully still available by calling the Garrick box office on 01543 412121, or by visiting the theatre website at www.lichfieldgarrick.com
The full cast of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Pamela Raith Photography