Tag Archives: Chris Jared

THE LION THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

★★★★★

Gillian Lynne Theatre

THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Gillian Lynne Theatre

Reviewed – 28th July 2022

★★★★★

 

“Samantha Womack’s ice-queen witch stops short of caricature to give a cool, sassy and sexy performance”

 

The temptation to litter this review of “The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe” with spoilers is almost impossible to resist. Except that the protectors of the ‘Magic Circle’ would soon come knocking. Needless to say, Michael Fentiman’s stage adaptation is, in plain language, truly magical. Literally, emotionally and visually. Escapism personified.

We enter a war-torn Britain circa 1940. A lone pianist is gradually joined by the full ensemble while the melancholic strains of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ crescendo in beautiful harmony. This in turn gives way to the blitz and the exodus of London’s child population. Among the throng are Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy Pevensie, who are whisked away to Aberdeen and the forbidding, country house of the eccentric Professor Kirke. You know the rest – besides which, the title says it all.

Fentiman’s unique stamp is visible from the outset, with the cast comprising actor-musicians that conjure echoes of his ‘Amélie the Musical’; with soaring notes of Cirque du Soleil and knowing winks to Emma Rice. Throw in a touch of ‘Wonderville’ and the picture is complete. Tom Paris’ outstanding costume, with Toby Olié’s puppetry, are not just the icing on the cake, but crucial ingredients; as are Jack Knowles lighting, and the shattering soundscape provided by Ian Dickinson and Gareth Tucker. Although it cannot quite be described as a musical, Benji Bower’s and Barnaby Race’s score runs through it, frequently bursting into full blown choral numbers, around which choreographer Shannelle ‘Tali’ Fergus has staged some beautifully poetic, stylised and devilishly stylish movement.

As always, it is tempting to over-read the allegories. But the story does resonate particularly vibrantly now in its celebration of the coming together of individuals to overcome the darkest of winters. Narnia has been frozen for the past hundred years by the White Witch (Samantha Womack). Delainey Hayles’ Lucy is the first to stumble through the wardrobe into the forbidding kingdom, before persuading her siblings (Ammar Duffus, Shaka Kalokoh and Robyn Sinclair) to ‘believe’ in Narnia and join her. Can they overcome the usurper witch and restore the rightful ruler – the Christlike Aslan?

Well, we all know the answer. But it is the journey that leads us there that is the crux. Jez Unwin’s Mr Tumnus is the first to dole out lessons in betrayal and forgiveness, while the glorious pair – Julian Hoult as Mr Beaver and Christina Tedders as Mrs Beaver – dish out their unique blend of comic relief. Chris Jared, disconnected from the imposing puppet, is the impressive and magisterial voice of the lion, Aslan, while Samantha Womack’s ice-queen witch stops short of caricature to give a cool, sassy and sexy performance. The ensemble stops short of upstaging the protagonists, instead surrounding, infiltrating and complimenting the action with perfect precision and timing.

The story is timeless, a quality reflected in the fantastical nature of this staging. It transcends the family show boundaries often imposed on this genre of theatre. There has to be a sufficient amount of darkness for light to banish it. We’ve been through some pretty shadowy times of late, but it serves to magnify the hope and redemption we grasp afterwards. “The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe” is a show that exemplifies that. And it throws in all the eccentricities of life too.

Escape through the wardrobe and watch with an open mind. That way you will let all the wonder in.

 

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

 


The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Gillian Lynne Theatre until 8th January 2023

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Cinderella | ★★★★★ | August 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Amelie The Musical

Amélie The Musical

★★★★

Criterion Theatre

Amelie The Musical

Amélie The Musical

Criterion Theatre

Reviewed – 2nd June 2021

★★★★

 

“What wins in the end is the magic and the music, the players and the playing, and the escapism and the optimism”

 

The huge success of the film, “Amélie” in 2001 made an international star of its young, gamine lead; Audrey Tatou who played the waitress in a Montmartre café. Soon, the café itself enjoyed similar popularity, fast becoming a tourist spot on the Parisian landscape. On a smaller scale the same could be said of “Amélie the Musical” and its impact on Audrey Brisson; except that Brisson has already carved out a unique and quirky name for herself on the world stage. From a distance, the two Audreys might bear a resemblance, but up close there is no denying Brisson’s own identity and striking portrayal of Amélie Poulin, the eccentric waitress around whom this whimsical tales revolves.

Audrey Brisson both leads and is led by a truly impressive line-up of actor-musicians. It doesn’t matter if you are familiar with the film. You can instantly detach yourself from any preconceptions as you become immersed in Michael Fentiman’s production that is a perfect mix of reality and imagination. The film’s underlying but overriding narrative is replaced by an ensemble cast who share and celebrate the oddities and enigmas of life. The first musical to reopen in the West End, it is a breath of fresh air that helps us forget the past fourteen months. Like the title character we are urged to look beyond the drab reality into a world of possibilities.

Unintentionally in the spirit of the times, Amélie is deprived of human interaction, stuck in a bubble of loneliness. Whether she created it herself, or whether it was a result of her overprotective, erratic and neurotic parents, she uses the spy glass of her imagination to look around and discover that the world is made up of the same bubbles. Inspired (during a beautifully surreal moment when Caolan McCarthy belts out an elegiac anthem à la Elton John) by the death of Princess Diana, it becomes Amélie’s mission to carry out small deeds that bring happiness and romance to those lost souls. Of course, along the way she falls in love herself, with the photo-booth obsessed Nino (Chris Jared). Her own case is the hardest one to crack.

Daniel Messé’s score evokes the Paris boulevards but sweeps them up into fuller orchestrations that belong in the West End rather than the side streets. It starts with a lone accordion but builds into a sumptuous collection of strings and keys. The atmosphere is more memorable than the melodies, but the magic is sometimes broken by an intellectual grasp of the craft of these musicians as they dance with and swap instruments in perfect time to Tom Jackson Greaves’ clockwork movement.

Another star of the show is Madeleine Girling’s design; with pianos that come together and separate in a seamless waltz – morphing into street markets and sex shops; and lampshades that allow Brisson to show off her aerial background. The eccentric cleverness of the show sometimes threatens to distract the audience; but that is fleeting. What wins in the end is the magic and the music, the players and the playing, and the escapism and the optimism. Which we all need right now – and which is out there for us all to partake in. And “Amélie the Musical” is definitely the place to find it.

 

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


Amélie The Musical

Criterion Theatre until 25th September

 

Other shows reviewed this year by Jonathan
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Bklyn The Musical | ★★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Remembering the Oscars | ★★★ | Online | March 2021
Disenchanted | ★★★ | Online | April 2021
Preludes in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | May 2021
You Are Here | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | May 2021
Abba Mania | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | May 2021
Cruise | ★★★★★ | Duchess Theatre | May 2021

 

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