Cast succeeds in complex production

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2011

By Katie Scarvey
Thursday night, I texted my older daughter and told her I was taking her sister, just home from college, to see the Piedmont Players Youth production of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
“Sounds great if they can pull it off!” she replied.
I know what she meant. She wasn’t being disparaging; she’s seen great PPT youth shows and has even been in a few. But being familiar with the C.S. Lewis fantasy novel, as well as the movie version of it, she was simply commenting on how challenging such a show would be.
After all, besides the humans in the cast there’s a witch and all sorts of creatures both real and fantastical, from beavers to elves to centaurs — not to mention an apocalyptic battle between good and evil.
So, yes, it’s a challenging show, not for the faint of heart, and I’m thrilled to report that PPT has pulled it off with flying colors.
No doubt Reid Leonard had a big task in choreographing the climactic fight scene, with so many children on stage swinging around swords and sticks. But it works seamlessly, and parents will be grateful that while it’s exciting,the action is not going to terrify the younger set.
One standout performance came from Chelsea Hatfield, who played the White Witch. Hatfield plays the two-faced witch wonderfully, all sweetness and light one minute to poor impressionable Edmund (who just wants some Turkish delight, thank you very much) and an evil tyrant the next. Hatfield’s extensive dance background seems to have given her a real confidence on stage, even when she’s acting instead of dancing.
The human foursome of Edmund, Peter, Susan and Lucy (played by Blake Safrit, Jonah Evans, Haley Vanhoy and Sarah Hallett) also does a good job as the “sons and daughters of Adam and Eve” who travel through the wardrobe to the magical kingdom of Narnia.
William Culp is appropriately dithering as Mr. Beaver while Ali Culp projects calm, maternal warmth as Mrs. Beaver. Adam Silverstrim is fun to watch as Mr. Tumnus, a faun sympathetic to the children.
Jon Mitchell is a suitably menacing Fenris Ulf, the witch’s wolflike evil henchman, and Will Merrick plays the lion Aslan (the Christ figure in what is essentially a religious allegory) with a gravitas befitting the role — and a pretty darn good roar.
Anthony Cataldo is artfully transformed into an imposing but warm Father Christmas.
Kudos to Shelley Porter-Walker, who was in charge of costumes.
I’m not sure if she was responsible for makeup as well — the program didn’t say — but the whole cast looked great.
The children in the audience around me were clearly enthralled by the play, and it was fun to hear them whispering excitedly when they recognized someone they knew on stage. You could practically see the wheels turning in their heads: “Someday, I’m going to do this!”
Whenever I go to PPT’s youth productions I am always reminded of how incredibly fortunate we are for our children to have the kind of invaluable educational opportunity provided by Leonard and the other directors. Auditioning, committing to a production, learning lines, creating a character, being a team player and seeing a show through to completion: the lessons kids learn from these youth productions are endless.
“The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe” continues at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Norvell Theatre, 135 E. Fisher St.
The play will be performed again next Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees this week and next at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. All tickets are $10 on Wednesday Value Night.
The box office is open 9 a.m.-1 p.m. weekdays or call by 704-633-5471 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.