Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Miwaukee Youth Theatre, "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe."

On Thursday evening, October 25th, I went to "The Lincoln Center for the Arts" (Milwaukee's arts magnet middle school) to see the Milwaukee Youth Theatre's production of "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe," adapted from C.S. Lewis' book, by Joseph Robinette. I went specifically to see our young friends, James and Brianna Sullivan, perform, but, hey, it's Lewis!

Robinnette's adaptation isn't at all bad. Even though the Narnia books are short, it's still work to cram it all into a bit less than two hours, so it is a rather talky script with a lot of stand-there-and-declaim to get out all the exposition. That said, the story comes across clearly, and much of Lewis' language is fortunately preserved.

The play was well cast, with Anna Arenas being very good in the pivotal role of Lucy. I think that Jack Hake, as Edmund, must have been the smallest boy in the cast, and seemed younger than Lucy, which gave a very interesting different dynamic to the story. Edmund's failings seem much more the errors of innocence than the spiteful perversity Lewis portrays in the books, but this made Aslan's willingness to save him more believable. Hake handled the demands of his role very well. Casting for the other major parts was also successful. Kristina Webb ranted and menaced well as the White Witch. Ian Walls was strong and noble as Aslan (although in the suit and tie that was his base costume, at this time, I couldn't help feeling he seemed more "presidential" than "lordly"--). Abby Thompson as an appropriatly nervous Tumnus and Julian Green and Lindsay Lecus as the Beavers got over a lot of the "expository lumps" nicely. About all the script required of Paul Preister as Peter is that he be stalwart, and Priester met that challenge with style. The script unfortunately makes Susan out to be rather a wet blanket to start, but Rori McKechnie got well over that part and, with Arenas, was very good in the dramatic scenes where the girls witness Aslan's martyrdom and ressurection. James and Brianna were spear-carriers for Aslan's army, but they and everyone in the cast performed well and with enthusiasm, and I noted no missed entrances, flubbed cues, or dropped lines at all.

The production made effective use of a minimal set enhanced with lighting. Costumes and makeup, combined with postures for the talking animals, were likewise more suggestions than depictions, but worked well and it was always easy to tell who was who. I liked touches such as Fenris Ulf's balck lipstick, the fur collar of Aslan's coat, and the hornlike curls of Tumnus' hair. Fight choreography for the battle scenes was basic and safe as appropriate, and done in slow-motion, which worked OK. The one quibble I had was that the White Witch's death, by falling on her own sword in the battle, seemed a bit of a cop-out. Lewis makes it clear that Aslan kills her, but I can see how that might have been difficult to work out in this setting.

I really enjoyed this performance. Milwaukee Youth Theatre appears to have a good and serious program for young actors, and I thought everyone showed lots of promise.

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Tags: fantasy, theatre
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