What: Family stage musical
Where: Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St.
When: Through Dec. 29. Showtimes: 7 p.m. Fridays; 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Exception: added performance 7 p.m. Dec. 26.
Tickets: $25 main floor, $20 balcony
Information: 402-345-4849 or rosetheater.org
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Engaging leads, strong staging and a couple of emotional ballads make the Rose's production of “Narnia” more than watchable. Add a ballet-inspired featured dancer and strong design work on scenery, lighting and costumes, and a thumbs up is an easy call.
“Narnia,” a stage musical based on C.S. Lewis' children's classic “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” opened Friday for a four-weekend run. It will appeal to a broad age range, though director Jesse Jou's approach leans toward older children. Small fry may be upset by heroic Aslan the lion's death scene or find the run time of 2 hours, 30 minutes, including intermission, a challenge.
But several little ones at a Thursday preview stayed focused, even singing along to some of the catchier tunes as the story unfolded.
The show's chief delight is Kirstin Kluver as the deliciously malevolent White Witch, preening and scheming her way around the Pevensie children so she can keep her cold grip on the kingdom of Narnia. Kluver's elegant body language and wicked delivery of dialogue are just about perfect as the witch, and she's delightfully chilly as housekeeper MacReady as well.
She's also the show's best singer, having a lot of fun with character-defining songs like “Hot and Bothered” and “Murder Today.”
Walter Shatley also turns in an admirable performance, playing three sharply different characters. He's warm and fuzzy as Professor Kirke, who becomes a foster parent to the Pevensie kids when they're sent to the country to avoid the London blitz of World War II. His Father Christmas exudes the joy of bringing the long-absent holiday back to Narnia when the witch's powers ebb.
But Shatley has his best moments as Aslan, the charismatic lion who inspires the children to be their best selves and bravely face down the White Witch and her army. His scene with traitorous Edmund (Max Hauze), bringing him back into the fold with love and forgiveness, is a show highlight as he sings “From the Inside Out” in a strong baritone.
Another strong singer and character actor is Wai Yim as the faun Tumnus, whose tea party with Lucy (Emma Dougherty) ends with “You Can't Imagine,” remembering what Narnia was before the witch's reign. Kevin Mikuls and Laura Davis do a fine job as brave Peter Pevensie and mothering older sister Susan.
Patrick Wolfe and Louisa Foster are charmers as squabbling Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, though Wolfe's strong Cockney accent made words hard to decipher here and there.
Scott Gaines brings physical grace and character-defining movement to several dance solos as the White Stag, leaping and pawing the earth in ways that underline shifting moods. Sue Gillespie Booton's choreography is excellent throughout.
Music director Jerry Brabec leads the double-keyboard live accompaniment, and he's admirably prepared his cast on several lush choral harmonies in songs such as “Lay Him in a Field of Flowers” and “Cair Paravel.”
The singing was uneven among featured players, but generally good. Microphones distracted by cutting out or making loud noises here and there. Fight scenes impress, though the children sometimes looked overmatched by the adults at swordplay.
Special kudos to costumer Sherri Geerdes, whose creations for Aslan, the White Witch, Eagle, Reindeer and the White Stag, among others, add so much to the show.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1269, email@example.com