C. S. Lewis’s children masterpiece continues to enchant audiences now in its stage form in London’s West End. Guillermo Názara reviews the musical adaptation of the first of the Narnia Chronicles, to share his news thoughts about the show upon his return on its gala night.
Beyond the wind and rain that’s invaded London over these past few days, the streets of Covent Garden continue to exude the usual charm that emanates from its sumptuous essence. But there’s something else floating in the air, a new warm and gentle vibe has poured all through the place, imprinting every little brick and cobble in the four-century old neighbourhood – the spirit of Christmas is literally just around the corner. As the buildings prepare their rushed (though intricate) makeovers to allign with the excited expectations of both locals and tourists, the magic of the stage lights new sparks of wonder with a different offer created especially for the festivities. But not all shows are the same. And just as some others perform complete outside of the flow of the time, there is also this very special breed you would only encounter every once in a while – the kind that regardless of when it takes place, it always manages to be one of the stars of the season, no matter if you’re looking for a summer blockbuster or the family treat of wintertime.
The fascination with C.S. Lewis’s children creations in this country (and probably a great deal of the world) is by all means understandable. Though conceived to provide kids with some sort of make-believe escape during one of the UK’s direst wartimes, themes revolving about fantasy and adventure, good and evil and the power of friendship have always been (and probably always will be too) appealing for young and older audiences alike. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this particular version earned a new ensemble of fardom of its own. It may be well deserved, after all.
Coming back to a show is often a tricky task, even if the production has got your approval. True is nice to reencounter with a piece of art you have enjoyed, but unless you’re a devotee, rewatching something you’ve already seen, particularly when it’s just been a few months since the press night, it can give you a bit of headache – or even worse, a banquet of boredom. But the astonishing twists and turns of this intense though cradling rollercoaster can basically achieve one only thing: increase the awe. It may be the fact that the cast is better acquainted with the material, it may be the writing itself is admirably good – or perhaps (and most likely) both. Whatever the case, the experience only gets better.
Featuring a tasteful and mastefully executed score (providing atmosphere and, impressively enough, even pace to the narrative itself), the theatricality of this production is a triumph of both script crafting and staging. With seamless transitions and simple though cleverly implemented sets, the immersion into the musical’s universe is almost immediate – painting bigger and more detailed pictures in your mind through its imaginative visuals, taking us from the humid bleakness of 1940s London to the majestic allure of the realm of Narnia.
As for its inhabitants, the fact that they are visitors or the mythical creatures of the land makes no difference whatsoever – the entire cast stands out, both as a whole and individually, not only for keeping up with West End’s standards in spades, but also exceeding their with a refreshing and much inspiring showcase of pure talent where performers act, dance, sing… and also play instruments (the ones that require complex technique) while doing all the rest at the same time. Among them, Samantha Womack excels in her role as the White Witch, showing elegance and insidous attractiveness in her portrayal of the vicious enchantress. On the other hand, Jez Unwin makes a memorable appearance as Mr. Tumnus, endowing his character with his own soul and heart, while a similar praise goes to the children leads (played by Ammar Dufus, Shaka Kalokoh, Delainey Hayles and Robyn Sinclair) for their much appreciated energy, presence and natural flair onscene.
“Seasons come and seasons go”, as it’s chanted in the popular Disney song. And certainly, this show will too, for its run will come to an end by the very beginning of next year. Many reasons have been given throughout this review (and in my previous one) to go see it, but if there’s still something that’s stopping you from doing so, there’s no doubt that the limited time ahead gives you no other choice – unless you really want to regret it (no threat intended… for legal reasons). Anyway, with the Christmas spirit already starting to materialize, this is surely a present nobody will ask for its receipt. For it is a gift to the stage and to anyone who wants to be a part of it.
Read our first review here.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe plays at London’s Gillian Lynne Theatre from Wednesday to Sunday until 8 January 2023, with two additional performances over the holiday season – matinees on 14 December 2022 and on 4 January 2023. Tickets are available on the following link.