‘Narnia’ delights, intrigues

Fantasy is alive and superbly put on stage at the Boathouse for the Lake Superior Youth Theatre production of Narnia. Near the beginning of the musical, “Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” a cranky housekeeper at a historic English country estate warns four newly arrived children, “I see you all have that ‘I’m going to explore Marbleton Manor’ look. Forget it. The Age of Exploration is over. Understood?” Fortunately the children ignore her, and local audiences are drawn into a fascinating and fun world of imagination and allegory.

Co-Directed by LSYT Alums Jill Vermeulen and David Bashaw who show cased a great deal of talent and put on a grand directing debut. Before the show I wondered how LSYT could produce convincing sets for this mythical world, especially in the confines of the Frazier Boathouse. I shouldn’t have worried. The performance is well staged, from spring thaw to battle scenes.

If you don’t know the plot of the book, it’s easily summarized. The four Pevensie children-Peter; Chandler Bur, Susan; Kendra Palomaki, annoying Edmund; Ricky Vermeulen and precocious little Lucy; Kaelyn Amis-are evacuated from London during the Blitz to a mysterious country estate where they find a strange portal that leads them into the magical land of Narnia. Amis and Vermeulen are the standouts here, but all four play their parts well.

Best known as a series of seven high fantasy novels by author C. S. Lewis, “The Chronicles of Narnia” are considered classic children’s literature and is the author’s best-known work, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages. Written by Lewis between 1949 and 1954, “The Chronicles of Narnia” has been adapted seven times, complete or in part, for radio, television, the stage, and film.

Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals ruled by the majestic King Aslan, the great Lion, played by Kees Gray. It has been a pleasure to watch this young man on stage over the years and he is powerful and strong in his portrayal.

Narnia’s mythical creatures-come-to life and talking animals unhappily dwell in a perpetual winter imposed by the vain and capricious White Witch. “A witch doesn’t have to keep promises,” Danielle Jahnke says at one point. “All she has to do is make them.” Jahnke turns in an icily evil performance and is definitely not Hot & Bothered!

Robert Smedman and Janae Peterson chew up the scenery (but, fortunately, not the Jim Pennell woodwork of the building) as the comic and lusty Mrs. and Mr. Beaver who bicker their way through the plot “Who ever heard of desperate beings fleeing for their lives with a sewing machine?!” he complains. Peterson and Smedman play well together and a highlight is their song, “A Bit of Spring.”

With a cast so fun to watch and enthusiastic it is impossible to mention them all. However, other characters worth citing are; Asa Naigus who was pitch-perfect in his cameo as Father Christmas. Kendyl Dahlstrom as the quirky, itchy Dwarf, howling his way thru the evening Noah Gannon as Fenris Ulf and last but not least the Fawn, Tumnus played exceptionally by Jeremiah Ogawa.

This enchanting family friendly musical runs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Please note there are two casts and although I saw only one. See it twice if you can. Tickets can be purchased through all EZ ticket outlets or the concession stand the night of the show. Group rates are available.

This is your family’s chance to experience the lessons of courage; unselfishness and wisdom live on stage that will help your children grow and as the song goes, “You can’t imagine it you have to have been there.”

Editor’s note: Bobby Glenn Brown, MFA, is known throughout the region as a performer and director. He has toured and performed in a variety of venues in the U.S. He is currently the president of the First Nighters Club for the Forest Roberts Theatre at Northern Michigan University.