When FFTC was invited to preview The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at Open Window Theatre, I jumped at the chance. I was extremely curious to see how a small black box theatre was going to pull off a large-scale production. My date was my almost 9 year old daughter (for a birthday outing) who was also concerned about how they would give a man an animal’s body but keep his head and torso and yet still give him horns.
When we arrived early for the preview’s special reception of milk and cookies, we discussed this particular concern with our friend Joy Donley, the director of the production.
She smiled and said, “Well, you’ll have to see if you liked how we did it. I think you will be pleased.”
She was right; we were not disappointed.
Before the show began, founder and executive director, Jeremy Stanbury, welcomed us to the production, thanking us for coming. Then, the theater went black and it began.
The sound of rain showered down on us, and the lights came up with the Pevensie children playing in the mansion. They heard Mrs. Macready giving a tour and they ran to hide; Lucy into the Wardrobe. Stepping into the wardrobe, the audience entered Narnia and stayed there for the length of the play only to return with foursome to close the story.
It was a powerful piece. There were many moments when I grabbed Tori’s hand because I was nervous. A black box theater puts the audience INTO the story. I was a little edgy that I would come face to face with one of the more creepy characters.
I didn’t need to worry about that though because while the actors came through the aisles, they didn’t interact with the audience . Normally, I love to interact with the actors but in this case, I was glad that I was purely a spectator and not participant.
My 9 year old was not nervous at all. She loved every minute of it and chattered all the way home though she was bemoaning the fact that she had a bellyache from eating nine cookies. (that was a bit excessive, even for me)
- Mrs. Beaver– played by Karen Wiese-Thompson. She was my absolute favorite. I was in fits and giggles every time she did anything on stage: spoke, danced, sang, ran. She was delightful.
- Mr. Beaver–played by Arnie Roos. The way he carried himself like an animated and concerned beaver was SO FUNNY! We always felt relieved and at peace when the Beavers were on stage.
- Lucy and Edmund– played by Madeline Ann Sundheim and Jack Alexander. They have huge roles in this story, and they both were extremely believable. At one point Lucy screamed at the top of her lungs, and I was so startled that I spilled my coffee!
- The stage/set–I knew that Open Window Theatre had expanded, but I wasn’t sure what it would look like. The stage is almost (almost) twice as big. The set was designed beautifully! I loved the bridge and the beaver’s house.
- Tori’s favorite character was the unicorn. “I like how they made her all white!”
- The volume. I only say this because there is a lot of shouting and yelling (and roaring) and screaming inside a small theater space. If you have sensitive young kids, I would prepare them for that. However, Jeremy Stanbury’s kids (one of whom shares a name with me) are quite young and they did fantastic.
- The cookies. Don’t get me wrong. They were delicious! But our reception was for the preview night only. Don’t despair too much. OWT does sell refreshments for your convenience.
I have always wanted to go to Narnia. After seeing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at Open Window, I feel like I was there. It was breathtaking.
Make the time in your schedule to see this show. You won’t be disappointed.