When patrons go to the Gingerbread Players’ production of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” they will be walking through the wardrobe and into the fantastical world of Narnia.
Constructed on the front door of the Shoals Theatre is a giant wooden wardrobe. Stepping through, theatergoers will find themselves in the lobby, which has been decorated to resemble the world described in C.S. Lewis’ book on which the play is based.
“We decided to put the wardrobe as an eye-catching piece outside the theater so that everyone walks through the wardrobe,” said director Elise Gilchrist. “Even the lobby is going to be decorated wintery — not Christmas, wintery — so that’s where the wardrobe that we go through is, it’s outside the theater.”
“The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” will run at the Shoals Theatre at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday and will will end with a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday. The stage production is based on the first book of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia.”
The production has a large cast of mainly children, which can become a challenge, especially when they are armed with small plastic swords.
“It’s going to have a lot of kids on stage, we’re going to have 48 in the cast,” Gilchrist said. “Well, 48 people in the cast, nearly all of them are under the age of 20, and most of them are under the age of 12.”
Katherine Dolan, an eighth-grader at Brooks High School in Killen, who is playing Susan, said she’s excited to play a character challenged with accepting a new reality.
“Usually I’m in the magical world and my character lives there, but in this one I get to be closer to myself,” Dolan said. “I’ve really gotten to find Susan’s personality because she’s like me but not.
“I really have to think about what it would be like going through a wardrobe and into this magical land. It’s kind of crazy to think about.”
Gilchrist directed “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” 15 years ago, before the popular film franchise ingrained itself into the minds of nearly every child.
This presents a new challenge of having to compete with what people expect having already seen the movie. And then having to do it internally making sure that she tries to put her own spin on the material.
During rehearsal, Gilchrist said the kids are using the movie as a constant point of reference, and she has to explain the difference between the movie and producing a live theatrical version.
“It all comes from the basic story whether its the movie version or the stage version,” Gilchrist said. “It’s just a beautiful story of good and evil and good triumphing and being forgiven, and the fact that we all make mistakes and if we learn to ask for forgiveness and learn we can move on from that.”
The thing that hasn’t changed between this production and the one she ran 15 years ago is the impact theater has on young people.
“It’s a whole new generation of young people and it’s fun to see them get excited about being a part of something like this and learn their lines,” Gilchrist said. “I can’t say enough about the value this has in the lives of young people because I’ve watched them grow up for 30 years. The ones that have theater on their resume so to speak have a leg up in a lot of ways.”
Will McCullouth an eighth-grader at Central High School in Florence, who is playing Tumnus, said he has enjoyed his experience with the Gingerbread Players.
“I just really enjoy doing theater,” McCullouth said. “It’s really been awesome doing this.”
Want to go?
-- What: The Gingerbread Players present “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”
-- Where: The Shoals Theatre, 123 N. Seminary St., Florence
-- When: 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
-- Cost: $12 for adults, $9 for students in advance; $15 for adults, $10 for students at the door
-- Details: 256-764-1700, shoalstheatre.com
Bobby Bozeman can be reached at 256-740-5722 or bobby.bozeman@TimesDaily.com.