Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The lion in winter

Children and animals change nature in classic play by C.S. Lewis

Express Staff Writer

Bill Nagel appears as the awe-inspiring Aslan in the stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis stories from Narnia. Express photo by Willy Cook

    Boys can be so dumb. Edmund Pevensie compromised his siblings and launched a war, all for Turkish Delight and a shot on being a king.
    Don’t be too hard on Edmund until you’ve tasted Turkish Delight, or, been the younger boy in a family whose father has left them to defend England against Germany.
    The story of “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” is all about self-realization, greed, honesty, and redemption. And the epic battle between good and evil in the end is synonymous with faith.
    Based on the classic story by C.S. Lewis, the first episode in his “Chronicles of Narnia” series, the story was adapted for the stage by Joseph Robinette. It opens in Ketchum this week.
    Directors Patsy Wygle and Keith Moore promise a vibrant stage production. Performances at the nexStage Theatre will be on Thursday, April 25, thru Saturday, April 27, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 27, and Sunday, April 28, at 3 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 726-4TKS or at the theater box office weekdays from 11a.m. to 4 p.m. As part of the nexStage’s outreach program, the play will be shown to school children from parts of rural Idaho in a special free performance on Thursday morning before opening night.
    The audience will join four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, when they step through a wardrobe and into a magical world—where the White Witch rules the snowbound land of Narnia, and it is always winter, but never Christmas.
    As they travel, the children encounter dwarves, fauns, unicorns, beavers and, ultimately, the great and good lion himself, Aslan. With help from the forest animals, the children seek to fulfill the ancient prophecy and release Narnia from the witch’s enchantment and her spell of eternal winter. This story of love, faith, generosity and courage, with its triumph of good over evil, is a true celebration of life. The play is suitable for all children ages 5 and above, and runs for approximately 90 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
    The cast have been in rehearsal since Easter weekend, with emphasis on creating such charismatic portrayals that all disbelief can be suspended as humans and animals meet and collaborate in a magical world accessed only by a wardrobe used for fur coat storage in a stuffy mansion outside of London.
    There will be double casting of the children in the play:  Penelope Weekes, Jasper Mott, Sarah Rau and Isaac Brannon will be in three performances and Marcella Fisher, Griff Conelly, Lindsay Morton and Logan Judd will take the same roles in the alternate performances. The cast also includes: Bill Nagel, Prue Hemmings, Matt Gorby, Lauren Sunday, Jamie Wygle, Sophie Harder, Annabel Webster, Wyatt Root, Keith Moore, Drake Vernoy, Mason Corkutt, Mackenzie Ellison, Zane Lyon, Devon Peterson, Celeste Cortum, Airey Jones, Ella Higdon, Sonnet Gripkey, Lucca Vernoy, Wylie Zellers, Caroline Estep, Christine Estep, Indie Vernoy, Jessie Thomas, Liv Nelson and Curtis Hopfenbeck.
    Costuming by Winkie McCray, set design by Pamela Doucette, set painting by Charlotte Hemmings, special effects,
lighting and props by K.O. Ogilvie, will all enhance the magic.
    Celeste Cortum, 10, plays Flowers the Skunk, who she says is far braver than her out-of-character personality, which makes it fun and inspiring.
    “She’s part of Aslan’s army and she is very brave,” Cortum said. “She shows that you can rise up and defeat evil, no matter how small, if you do it together.”
    Devon Peterson, 9, plays Randy the Rabbit, who she says is much like herself—“tough on the outside, and maybe in some of his words, but inside, he’s a nice guy. He’s small but he has courage. He can be rude to the queen’s army and has the best line in the play: ‘Shut up you toad,’” which Aslan’s actor, Bill Nagel, has been helping her hone to perfection.
    Because of the length of the run, many of the main characters are double-cast. Among those are Sarah Rau, 14, who plays the oldest sister, Susan.
    “She’s a worrier, but she’s also a leader,” Rau said. “She’s got lines that show her to be strong and charismatic, but she is terrified. She finally realizes that this path is not one to be feared, but endured and taken on as a challenge.”
    Rau, who has been in numerous productions including “Fame,” “Christmas Carol” and “Phantom Toll Booth,” said she pursues acting along with snowboarding and horses because “it allows you to build confidence and security within yourself.”
    Isaac Brannon, who plays oldest brother, Peter, said some of his lines were awkward at first, but that he has grown into them because of the story’s message and the nurturing environment many of the actors share.
    “Miracles can happen and bravery pays off,” he said.
    Moore said this cast is passionate to make it perfect because “everybody is crazy about the story.”
    The biggest feat is effectively crossing worlds within the same set, and managing the battle scene.
    While kids with stage weapons can be fun, “with 24 people on stage, we have learned what we can and can’t do,” Wygle said.

Need tickets?
Call 726-4TKS. General admission pricing is: $15 for children, $20 for adults. For reserved seating: $20 for children, $30 for adults. In support of the nexStage, Rico’s Pizza and Pasta Restaurant is offering a 20 percent discount on meals for theater-goers before and after the shows, valid with proof of ticket purchase.


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