Just in time for Halloween, Artisan Center Theater has staged a theatrical fantasy in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” complete with princesses, furry forest creatures, dancing birds, a roaring lion and a wicked witch.
Based on the story by C.S. Lewis, the play by Joseph Robinette is set in the mythical Narnia. It’s an imaginative tale that can be taken at face value or alternately seen as a Christian story of sacrifice and redemption.
The play centers on four children, sent to England to avoid the bombings of 1940s Europe. While in the home of a kindly professor, the children accidently enter an old wardrobe to find themselves dreamily transported to Narnia. There they encounter fairy-tale characters who lead them on adventures ranging from sword fights to visits from Father Christmas to a pretty impressive magic trick.
Artisan Center Theater has produced this show with a large cast, featuring a mix of adults in many of the anchor roles, with children filling other parts, both large and small. Narnia is ruled by Jadis, the evil white witch who only allows winter but never Christmas, played suitably imperiously by Elizabeth Price. Â Randy Sarver as the loving lion, Aslan, conveys a kind quality to a hero, even as he roars, and Teri McHargue, as Mrs. Beaver, brings an added energy and fun to the cast of characters.
In their featured parts, the four children are all adorable, although their body microphones, noticeable on their small faces in this intimate setting, detracted from their performances. A scene stealer is Sadie Leyva, a tiny cutie, entrusted to deliver numerous lines, all of which she handles ably with a flash of expressive eyes set in a precious face.
Since ACT’s plays are staged in-the-round, this production presented a particular challenge. The set, which included even the floor of the stage, required frequent changes for the production’s many scenes. But props could not be changed, as quickly as needed, giving the show a bit of a stop-start feel.
Even though the cast features many children and the play includes elves, dancing robins and cute mice, this is not a show for very young children. It’s dark, and its good-versus-evil plot could even seem frightening to the very young.
Yet it remains a family show that surely could be enjoyed by older elementary school children, their parents and grandparents. Those fans of imaginative stories such as “Star Trek” or Harry Potter will warm readily to this adaptation of Lewis’ stories. And for those who share a fondness for fantasy, complete with capes, sword duels and forest fairies, this is just your ticket for Halloween drama.
The show, directed by Taffy Geisel, will continue through Nov. 14 at Artisan Center Theater, 418 E. Pipeline Road, Hurst. www.artisanct.com and 817-284-1200.