Long before winter descended on the characters in HBO’s hit TV show “Game of Thrones,” four children stumbled into a snow-covered land called Narnia through the back of a wardrobe. These sons of Adam and daughters of Eve were destined to save this world from the evil White Witch in C.S. Lewis’ tale “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
The Midcoast Actors’ Studio has mounted an ambitious production based on the novel at the Crosby School in Belfast.
Directed by Leah Bannister, it succeeds, despite some technical difficulties, because of its talented, multi-generational cast, the youngest of whom are delightfully charming.
Bannister and her actors work hard at pacing the show so that the action moves steadily toward the climactic battle. But, they often are thwarted by scene changes that take too long and the time it takes for the lion Aslan to move around.
Aslan is portrayed by a lifesize puppet that needs three people to operate. It was a great idea, but something got lost in the execution. Designed by Bannister, the body is too large for the set, especially when the humans and the other animals join him. It seems to take forever for the puppet to lumber across the stage.
The head, operated and voiced by Nathan Roach, is stunningly beautiful. The gold paint catches the light and sparkles off the mane. Using just the head would help cut the show’s more than two-hour running time. Roach’s deep, rich voice behind the head aptly and ably gives Aslan majesty. Nothing more is needed.
The children, Peter (Maci Burgess), Susan (Erin Hayes), Edmund (Chris Hayes) and Lucy (Gracie Hayes), bicker and battle like siblings, in part because the three Hayeses are siblings. Gracie Hayes’ Lucy is not only adorable, she is passionate about their mission. Chris Hayes, the errant Edmund, is a perfectly petulant brat.
At one point, the children are taken in by Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, gracefully portrayed by Bryan and and Bobbi-Jo Hayes, the real-life parents of the Hayes children. John Dalton Logan (Mr. Tumnus) and Jay Holland (Professor Digory Kirke) are two other adult standouts.
The real star of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is the White Witch (Chris Goosman). Wearing a white brocade gown, a snow white wig and white makeup on her face, Goosman resembles a snow sculpture suddenly brought to life. The actress is scary enough to make adults shiver each time she appears on stage but is not so terrifying that the youngest theatergoers burst into tears.
Other than the Aslan puppet, the costumes, designed by Linda Marie, and the makeup, by Jennifer Howard, are cleverly executed. Set designer Greg Marsanskis and Brian Ross use the large stage well. The large wardrobe crammed with fur coats works beautifully.
It was announced last week that Midcoast Actors’ Studio will be the resident theater company at the Crosby School, along with another ambitious season. Productions next year will include “Sweeney Todd,” “Cabaret,” “The Crucible” and “The Snow Queen.”
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” will be performed through Sunday at the Crosby School, 96 Church St., Belfast. For tickets, call 370-7592 or visit midcoastactors.org.