‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’: A magnificent way for children to explore theater

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Bay Area Children’s Theatre presented the perfect introduction to fine art for young ones with its adaptation of C. S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Founded in 2004, BACT persists in its vision “for all Bay Area children to have the opportunity to experience live theatre,” as stated on the organization’s website. Displaying an engrossing tale to encourage children to chase their wildest dreams, BACT’s new production boasts an enjoyable adventure. 

A small cast of six isn’t enough to derail the production from creating the mystical world of Narnia. The stage was ornamented with whooshing drapes complete with images of snow projected on the folds, and enchanting instrumentals enhanced every movement with grace. Additionally, delightful outfits created dainty visuals and a minimal yet impactful set design. From the onset, the play immediately whisks viewers away into another realm with an opening dance that foreshadows the entrancing fable. 

With less than an hour of run time, the play still captivates audiences, coursing through the legend of Narnia with its wicked witch, courageous lion, Aslan, and the four siblings who somehow stumble into this fairy tale. Because of the younger intended audience, the philosophical questions Lewis poses are abandoned, but still, the play grapples with the central themes of love and courage. Topics of death and loyalty are entertained, allowing kids to be acquainted with common, vulnerable life experiences. 

Narrated by two siblings reenacting their experience in Narnia, the cast puts on a splendid show by altering their storytelling voices as they each switch between siblings. Blending humor into their friendly and exuberant commentary, kids in the audience will be entertained throughout while keeping pace with the scene transitions. The actors addressed the audience often, making eye contact, waving at kids and, in one moment, parading through the seats and giving viewers a glimpse of theater magic. This thoughtful way of involving and reaching young people through theater has the potential to spark the beginning of an artistic journey. 

Cassie Grilley is wonderful as Lucy, the youngest of the four siblings, in addition to Susan and the iniquitous witch. One actor playing all of these roles might sound like it would hinder the play, but Grilley is riveting as all three characters. Through efficient costume switches, Grilley demonstrates to kids that onstage, they can be whomever they want, with few limits to this power. 

Props bring the play to life, showcasing the various mediums that contribute to the essence of theater. The titular wardrobe glides around the stage, designed as a flexible set piece instead of one that’s fixed in place. The play characterizes Aslan through a sizable two-person puppet costume, eliciting gasps of awe from the children. Swords are drawn as characters battle intensely for the good — and for some, the evil — in the world. These scenes inspire young audiences to be curious and to explore the artistic world in all its performative beauty — in this case, thanks to the hands-on design and playwriting.

BACT provides a space for expression to exist, especially for young people who are still learning the fundamentals of how to communicate what they feel and think to the world. A place in which interest in the arts can be built and nurtured, people can seek BACT as an opportunity to enrich their children’s lives with the precious experiences this platform can provide. 

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is creative, simple and coordinated in a fashion that keeps kids in a state of wonder, bolstering children to enact and live their own fantastical dreams. Whether one is looking for their children to develop a possible interest in theater, to discover worlds beyond their cellphone screen or to watch a lovely show, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” delivers that marvelous gift.

Cameron Opartkiettikul covers theater. Contact him at [email protected].