Regional Reviews: Seattle
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at Seattle Children's Theatre
Also see David's review of The Sound of Music
The venerable C.S. Lewis children's fable/Christian allegory The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is a big-budget holiday endeavor for Seattle Children's Theatre. Sadly, it is the theatrical equivalent of Santa leaving a lump of coal in a child's stocking.
Adrian Mitchell's adaptation of Lewis' tale of four WWII-era English youngsters who transport via an old wardrobe to the enchanted but troubled land of Narnia is as dull and lame an excuse for children's entertainment as I have ever come across, and the shows songs, with Mitchell's pedestrian lyrics set to muzaky tunes by Shaun Davey's are showstoppers in the worst sense stopping the show in its tracks rather than furthering it. The fact that the SCT production relies on canned accompaniment adds further to the flatness of the show's musical elements.
Normally solid SCT Director Linda Jo Hartzell isn't able to summon up much enchantment in this meanderingly paced effort, and really shoots herself in the foot casting actors Carin Towne, Emily Cedergreen and Michael A. Harding, who play their young hero roles with far too much maturity and somberness, and even the usually redoubtable Jason Collins isn't able to exhibit much zest or exuberance as their misguided sibling who joins forces with the White Witch of Narnia. As the White Witch, Julie Briskman is haughty and evil enough and well partnered by Jayne Muirhead as her minion and partner in crime. Aaron Shanks is agreeable and in fine voice as a faun who defies the Witch, and Terrence Kelly is appropriately majestic as the bold Lion King Islan. Sadly, a few bright performances can't rescue the whole show.
The technical aspects of the show, from set design by Carey Wong to costume design by Catherine Meacham Hunt to fight choreography by Geoffrey Alm and lighting design by Rick Paulsen, are all proficient, yet underwhelming. I noted many a restless child in the audience at the performance I attended, and probably as many restless parents. If SCT does indeed plan to make this show a holiday perennial, I hope some serious thought will go into making it the kind of enchanting effort which a family will justifiably plunk down its dollars for, rather than the lackluster effort that we have been handed this year.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at Seattle Children's Theatre, Seattle Center, through Jan. 11. For more information visit SCT online at www.sct.org.- David-Edward Hughes