Special to the Record
Courtenay Little Theatre is preparing to unveil its annual Christmas gift for Comox Valley audiences: the musical, Narnia, based on the classic fantasy The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay from Dec. 27 to Jan. 3.
Many baby boomers were raised on the books of the Chronicles of Narnia series, while later generations have also enjoyed television and film adaptations of the story of four English schoolchildren during World War II who discover the fantastical world of Narnia after hiding in their uncle’s wardrobe.
Director Brian Mather spent his early years in England, which fostered a love of theatre that revolved around his parents’ involvement in the local theatre guild. He later took his Bachelor of Education with majors in Theatre and Environmental Education, “Just to keep both sides of my brain balanced,” he quips.
Mather first encountered The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe while teaching elementary school in 1968 and he later directed the musical version in 1991 at Lake Trail Middle School with a cast of 56 students.
CLT’s current production of the shorter version of the same musical has brought Mather full circle as he has reunited with set designer, Jay Crowder, and wig and makeup designer, Nancy Parker, who both collaborated on the earlier production.
“The Chronicles of Narnia is an epic journey that parallels Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,” said Mather of his attraction to the material. “Both are stories of a classic good versus evil in a world that is disjointed and is in danger of being destroyed. They provide insights into such basic human values as honesty, loyalty, courage, and love.”
Mather describes his current cast of 26 actors, who have been rehearsing since October, as “a wonderful mix of seasoned performers and some relative newcomers. They bring an energy and excitement to the stage. There is humour in the Beaver couple (Michelle Sinclair and Percy Gledhill), evil in the White Witch (Kara Derma), love in the Great Lion, Aslan (Ross Stephanson), and a personal understanding in each of the four children (Michael Taylor, Sierra Krug, Annemarie Taylor, and Monique Collins).”
Other well-loved characters are brought to life by Tony Arnold (Professor Digory), Sophie Bouey (Tumnus), Gary Caine (Father Christmas), Jayden White (the White Stag), and Aidan Passingham, Jacob Fussell, and Connor Hogg as the White Witch’s Dwarf and wolf henchmen, as well as 10 ensemble members who play a wide variety of creatures.
Local audiences are sure to be treated to a visual feast onstage.
“From the start I saw Narnia as a visually rich production that presented itself as bigger than life.”
“The set (both in size and colours), the costumes, the music and the staging all aim to support the vision. This also reflects the enormity of the world and the issues it presents as seen through children’s eyes,” Mather enthuses.
“Although there is some fighting and a very powerful scene at the Stone Table, most children who have read the story (or had it read to them) and discussed it with their parents will have no trouble following the plot and accepting the action,” he adds.
He also emphasizes that this is a show for everyone who is young at heart.
“It is the children’s journey as they grow and discover their strengths and the importance of the bonds of family. We hope you will join us to share the journey and maybe relive, for a short time, the magic of your own childhood.”
Narnia is already showing its popularity at the box office but good seats are still available, with the balcony open for all performances. Tickets may be purchased at the Sid Williams Ticket Centre Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., by phone at 250-338-2430 or online at www.sidwilliamstheatre.com. Evening performances (Dec. 27, 29, 30, 31, Jan. 2 and 3) begin at 7:30 p.m. with one matinee on Sunday Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 each, except for the popular New Year’s Eve Special Celebration on Dec. 31 when tickets are $25 each.