The performance really begins right from the moment you step into the theatre, for on the dimly lit stage a man is softly playing a grand piano, illuminated by a single, subtle spotlight. We are immersed further still when the lights start to fade, as even the audience announcement is cleverly incorporated into the opening scene.
It took less than three minutes for the performance to blow me away; nothing about it was in the least bit ordinary. A mundane train ride was made breathtakingly beautiful with the magic that only a live production can deliver. Apparent rusticity and simplicity added charm throughout, but there was nothing simple in the creativity with which it was presented. Entire steam trains materialised from lamps and fog; robins fluttered on set led by the most elegant of dancers; and cosy living rooms were conjured up from wooden furnishings and warm lighting. Mere seconds was all it took to be spirited away from the Scottish manor house to the bewitching Narnian wonderland, with flawlessly fast transitions and superb staging. As Lucy stepped closer and closer to the wardrobe, every single audience member edged closer and closer in their seats with every dramatic piano note. Until all at once the stage erupts with joyful dancers, celestial choir voices and their divine, yet stirring harmonies. Boasting a sumptuous and spell-binding music score, you’d perhaps be astonished to learn that there is no orchestra. Instead, before your very eyes, beavers become violinists and foxes accordionists like the richest and most classical of fairy tales.
Expertly condensed, but staying true to the renowned novel, director Michael Fentiman ensured we were never far from exhilaration, and any differences didn’t detract from the storyline in the least. However, one thing I would’ve loved to see more of, was the famous scene where Lucy and Susan dance and frolic with Aslan, but I wasn’t left wanting for long. An intense battle between the animalistic Maugrim and the children, perfectly executed and almost dance-like, had the audience gasping. Intense as it was, there were sweet moments of comedy like in the quirky professor and his charismatic cat, or in the adorably played beaver couple. Rather than inhibiting the story as is often the case, beautiful songs such as ‘The Lion Walks’ added such an air of anticipation, alongside Shannelle Fergus’ captivating choreography. Even if musicals aren’t your thing, I can guarantee you this will be.
First performed in 2017 the production’s diverse cast were exceptional. Jez Unwin masterfully played the ever chivalrous and lovable Mr Tumnus exactly as I would have imagined him. In fact, every actor fit their role skilfully, radiating personality. Delightfully festive yet fitting for all occasions and ages, despite although some scenes being potentially scary for littler ones.
A true sensation: bicycles, snowfall, floating confectionary, pyrotechnics, flying and magic! I was enthralled. The applause was rapturous.