Walking through the wardrobe
People who grew up with the "Chronicles of Narnia" books by C.S. Lewis know about the Pevensie children, Mr. Tumnus and the great Lion "Aslan." Now fans of this fantastical world will be able to meet these characters in the Woodbury Community Theater's production of "Narnia: The Musical" when it opens for the general public on July 8.
"Narnia" comes from the beloved classic "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."
"Narnia" tells the story of the Pevensies -- Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy -- who find a magical wardrobe that transports them to the magical world of Narnia. A wooded winterland world full of mythical friends and foes. Narnia is being held captive by the white witch, Jadis, with a cold fist of cruelty and tyranny. The Pevensies find themselves in the middle of a battle of good versus evil with the great lion Aslan, fighting to restore Narnia to its former peace and beauty.
"I feel like Narnia is one of those places where anything can happen," Woodbury resident Beth Ryder, who will be playing one of the witch's henchmen, Fenocrick Dolt, said.
One would think that the production's massive scale -- the sets, the costumes, the characters and the fights -- would be a challenging endeavor, but director Swigart said there are no words to describe how well everything has gone thus far.
"I tell everyone I have to find a new word, I've worn out the word 'amazing,'" she said. "So, 'epic' is the new word."
All of the sets and costumes are being handmade by the crew. The production also has a professional fight choreographer to assist with the epic battles.
Swigart said her cast is one of the most impressive groups she has ever had because not only are they an extremely talented group, they have the imagination to bring the characters to life.
"We have a primo cast, hard-working, dedicated, very, very talented -- one of the most talented casts I've ever had," she said. "And it's not like a regular play where you have semi-normal characters. These characters are out there, they're having so much fun being somebody that they're not."
Some of the cast members must change species too -- such as the Beavers.
Kevin Olson of Oakdale and Joani Holmes of Inver Grove Heights, will be portraying the friendly Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, and they both said it has been fun to slip into their characters.
"They're humanoid beavers, but it's been interesting to try and capture some rodent qualities," Olson said.
For Holmes, she has found a kindred spirit with Mrs. Beaver, who speaks in a Scandinavian accent and loves to sew.
"It's not even just being an animal character, but for them to create such a wonderful character -- it feels so Minnesotan," she said. "It's kind of scary how amazingly natural it is for me to play a beaver -- Mrs. Beaver and I share a special bond."
Holmes not only sees a bit of herself in Mrs. Beaver, but sees a bit of home in Narnia itself.
"It's such a mysterious place, but yet it seems like home," she said. "It feels like going up to the lake and communing with nature, but it's this big story around it and you get caught up with it."
Brian Erdrich from River Falls, Wis., will be portraying the eldest Pevensie, Peter, and he said it has been exciting and fun to show the progression of Peter throughout the story.
"I get to be this timid, shy, little person and then I get to be this big scary guy," he said. "It's the progression of Peter from shy and quiet, to big and bold."
In addition to having cast members who channel their inner animals, there are those who must bring the evil of the story to life.
Karen Diers, a member of the worship ministry at New Life Church, will portray Jadis, the cold-hearted white witch.
"I kind of have an edge to my personality, and at the right moment it may come off a little strong -- it's been kind of fun to play into that and get away with that," she said. "Being able to play a character that I wouldn't dream of being in real life -- that's the fun part of acting, you get to escape a little bit."
Diers has one of the most important characters to the story because she is at the center of the good versus evil battle that is "Narnia."
"To be really evil and portray that well is what I want to do, so that Aslan the great lion will shine even brighter and make his good even better," she said.
Diers said one of her favorite things about "Narnia" is how it mirrors real life and its temptations.
"I think 'Narnia' helps us see no matter how good we are, there always is a temptation, a seduction to do the wrong thing , but there is always a hope, there's always a good king waiting for us," she said. "Even though it's fantasy, there is so much reality in it and I hope people see that."
Swigart said she is very optimistic about the show being a success since it is such an intriguing one.
"We have had a lot of chatter about it already and we have never had this much chatter so early," she said. "It's epic, it's familiar, it's in everyone's memory."
"Narnia: The Musical" will debut June 29 to 31 for the Kids Club program before the public performances at 7 p.m. July 8 to 11 at New Life Church, 6758 Bailey Road. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and children 4 and over. Children 3 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased online at www.woodburycommunitytheatre.org/.
For more information, call (651) 730-4627 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org