Mike Fischer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saw 10 shows and has ranked them, less as a reductive prescription than as an invitation to conversation.
1) Macbeth: “one’s deepest and darkest thoughts emerge into what little light there ever is; watching this world unfold, one feels an unsettling, primeval connection to characters who are both a millennium old (this production is set in eleventh-century Scotland) and a reflection of ourselves and our neighbors.”
2) All My Sons: “…marvel anew at how much his play still has to say to us and the way we live now…”
3) A Chorus Line: from the tryout at the top of the show to the symbolic, outward facing circle the ensemble creates near journey’s end, we’re reminded that “love’s what we’ll remember.”
4) Bunny: ” I’m not pulling punches when predicting a rousing success for this darkly funny and also wrenching account of a woman (beautifully played by Maev Beaty) in her late thirties, looking back on a lonely life in which her need to be needed results in numerous sexual relationships.”
In his review of both “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and “Shakespeare In Love,” what Cushman calls “the populist wing of the festival,” he notes: Tim Carroll’s production is ceaselessly inventive and joyously imaginative. It’s also excellently acted. Tom McCamus doubles as man and beast, professor and lion, and is actually fiercer as the first than as the second. That’s clearly intentional; as Aslan he projects a regal gentleness from within a magnificent maned shell in the style of the puppets in War Horse…The Christian symbolism of Aslan’s sacrifice and resurrection is played down: a relief in many ways but it does leave the later sections of the story feeling weightless, however well-staged the battles.
The production is thoroughly magical…books are everywhere, reminding the audience at every step that this is a story. The words of the novel adorn snow-covered trees, the scene-scape projections, and even Aslan himself. The steps are made of books, the mansion’s columns are books, the thrones of kings and queens are made of books. It’s a librarian’s dream.
Director Tim Carroll has envisioned an efficient set that changes locations—and there are a lot of them—quickly by the use of video projections that slide across the back wall and on to side screens that rise and fall as well…The quartet of actors who play the siblings are all engaging. Sara Farb is a serious, precocious Lucy; Ruby Joy is a reticent and also serious Susan; André Morin as Edmund is an imp who always gets into trouble but his siblings pull him out, and Gareth Potter as Peter, is a responsible, protective older brother.
So there is an assured lightness of touch in Stratford’s take on the first installment of C.S. Lewis’s much-loved cycle of Narnia stories…Tim Carroll, a British director who takes over the helm of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival next season, has an obvious love for the material…Carroll has some exceptional colleagues helping work the
show’s magic. Among them, Douglas Paraschuk (sets), Kevin Fraser (lighting), Brad Peterson (projections), the late Todd Charlton (sound), David Ben (magic) and Alexis Milligan (puppetry). But Dana Osborne’s costumes are a particular delight, as irresistible as an Edward Lear nonsense poem.
Director Tim Carroll does a nifty job of bringing the production to life in grand style but it is the mastery of movement and puppetry director Alexis Milligan that ultimately transports a fairly standard children’s tale from reality into the surrealistic realm of magic, allegory (Christian and otherwise) and the child-like wonder of embracing the unknown.
With The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Stratford has produced the best family-friendly show since Peter Pan in 2010…This is the kind of production where direction and design trump acting, but still the entire cast is unanimous in striking exacting the right tone of Mitchell’s adaptation midway between reverence and parody.
Tom McCamus, as both Professor Kirk and Aslan, is perfectly cast. He speaks with authority and kindness. His quirky and wise professor is someone you trust immediately…And for those of us who read the book as children, this production offers us a way back to that time and place. It’s a wonderful land to visit.
As the White Witch, Yanna McIntosh commands the stage and creates a fantastic ‘bad guy’ for the audience to root against. As her Troll sidekick, Josue Laboucane is delightfully devious and so very fun to watch.
Carroll’s emphasis on the play’s visuals is complimented by the ensemble cast, led by McCamus as the wise Aslan and Professor (the latter with a more childlike, playful hop to his step) and the four Pevensie children: Gareth Potter as Peter, Joy, Morin and Sara Farb as Lucy, all equally charming.