The musical NARNIA is the holiday season show at Sierra Madre Playhouse, opnes November 23

by Oliver Carnay

The musical “Narnia," book by Jules Tasca, lyrics by Ted Drachman, and music by Thomas Tierney is based on the novel “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis, directed by Alison Kalmus, musical director: Lance Merrill, children’s musical director: Dianne Harmel and is being produced by Ward Calaway and Alison Kalmus.

Presented by Sierra Madre Playhouse and Southern California Lyric Theatre, the musical is being produced by special arrangement with Dramatic Publishing Company.

WHERE: Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. , Sierra Madre 91024. Abundant free parking behind theatre.

WHEN: November 23- December 23, 2007. Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2:30. Also: Saturday matinees at 2:30 on December 8, 15 and 22; Sundays at 7 p.m. on December 16 and 23; Tuesday, December 18 at 8 p.m; Wednesday, December 19 at 8 p.m.; Thursday, December 13 and 20 at 8 p.m.

ADMISSION: All seats $20.

RESERVATIONS: (626) 256-3809.


In a departure from previous seasons, when the Sierra Madre Playhouse presented the very popular stage classics like “The Sound of Music” and “A Christmas Carol” as holiday shows, the selection this year was made for a musical that is entirely appropriate for the holiday season yet would not be overly familiar to its audience from prior productions.

“Narnia” is a 1986 musical based on the novel “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis (1898-1963). The Irish Lewis was an atheist in his youth, and fascinated with the more fantastic elements of Norse mythology. At age 31, he converted to Christianity and the Anglican Church, influenced by his close friend, fantasy author and fellow Oxford faculty member J.R.R. Tolkein, a Catholic. Lewis became known as a Christian apologist, whose writings called for an examination of the truth of Christianity through the use of reason. But his most famous work was the series of books collectively known as The Chronicles of Narnia. The books are Christian allegories, but also work as family-friendly straight-ahead adventure stories, so they can honestly be enjoyed by believers and non-believers alike.

In the stage musical “Narnia”, based on the novel “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” four English children travel through a dimensional portal behind a wardrobe to a different place, the frost-encloaked land of Narnia, where talking animals are common and human are scarce. Narnia is held in the thrall of the evil White Witch. Aslan, a regal lion, is coming, gathering an army to fight the White Witch and her band of vicious wolves and wicked elves. Aslan gives up his life to rescue a traitorous English child in mortal danger, but is soon resurrected, and with power restored and with the aid of the children, marches on to confront the forces of evil once and for all.

Director Alison Kalmus places the narrative within the context of a live BBC radio broadcast in 1940 during the Blitz, adding an additional layer of allegory (Allies vs. Nazi Axis) to the proceedings, and distancing itself from the cuteness of Disney (which released its film based on the story in 2005. The “broadcast” is a dramatic flourish. Ms. Kalmus is aware that the first book in The Chronicles was first published nearly a decade later). The notion of a resurrected hero places the story within a Christian context, but the story elements of the battle between good and evil are accessible to all audiences regardless of religious affiliation. It’s a fantasy adventure suitable for the entire family.

Unlike most “radio play” stagings, the actors are “off book” (not reading from their scripts), more in the traditional style of performance. There will be a Foley artist (one who visibly performs sound effects live).

Because of the intense performance schedule (twenty-three performances in a single month), some roles are double or triple cast. The company of players includes (in alphabetical order) : Tiffany Brevard, Graham Cranston, Philip D’Amore, Stuart Galbraith, Sarah Gillman, Keith Harmel, Mary House, Corey Lynn Howe, Amy Lim, Johnson Lo, Christopher Loop, Dave McGee, Roberto Merkell, Kelly Myersfield, Sean Peterson, Megan Sanborne, Don Savage, Barry Schwam, James Shechet, Nina Silver, Stasha Sturdyke, Tracy Thomas, Tristan Willhelm and Kenneth Woods.

Assistant director/stage manager: Corey Lynn Howe. Costume design: Lynne Thomas and Liz Peterson. Set design: Don Bergmann and Dave Calhoun. Sound design/Foley artist: Barry Schwam. Properties/Foley assistant: Martha Merkell.

Alison Kalmus directs. She has directed the Sierra Madre Playhouse holiday shows for a number of seasons now. As founder and artistic director of Southern California Lyric Theatre, she draws upon her own operatic background to populate her casts with performers who are vocally trained and have superlative singing voices.

It is anticipated that many of the performances will sell out, so early reservations are strongly encouraged.