Carousel Theatre's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe lives up to the magic of the first Narnia book

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      Adapted by Joseph Robinette from the novel by C. S. Lewis. Directed by Carole Higgins. A Carousel Theatre production. At the Waterfront Theatre on Sunday, November 26. Continues until December 31

      The stakes are high when you’re staging a beloved book that’s already been made into a blockbuster movie. I’m happy to report that this Carousel Theatre production is a big success.

      The first and best-known of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe introduces the four Pevensie children, who are spending the summer in a country house. The youngest, Lucy, is the first to venture into an old wardrobe and discover that it’s a portal to the magical land of Narnia. There she meets a faun, Mr. Tumnus, who informs her that the White Witch has cast a spell that makes it always winter but never Christmas. When Lucy brings her brother Edmund to Narnia, he falls under the Witch’s power. Their older siblings, Peter and Susan; a beaver couple; and Narnia’s formidable king, the lion Aslan, must come together to free him—and the whole kingdom—from the Witch’s grasp.

      Joseph Robinette’s adaptation of the story clips along, and director Carole Higgins helms a strong cast through fateful encounters (“Don’t drink it!” one young audience member cried out on opening night as Edmund accepted a warm mug from the Witch), sword fights, surreptitious journeys, and a battle staged symbolically with giant chess pieces. Kaitlyn Yott’s Lucy is wide-eyed and big-hearted; Chris Lam’s sullen, rebellious Edmund is her perfect foil. Sereana Malani’s imperiousness and evil cackle make her White Witch a genuinely scary villain, but the warmth and nobility that Ian Butcher brings to Aslan instill confidence that good will eventually triumph. Both Kayla Dunbar’s anxious Mr. Tumnus, whose legs quiver at the thought of the Witch’s revenge, and Nick Fontaine’s cranky Mr. Beaver inject humour into what is sometimes a solemn story.

      The design elements bring that story to eye-popping life. Shizuka Kai’s set celebrates its literary origins: the furniture and the landscape are all made of stacks and rows of books, and set elements are painted onto the floor like illustrations. Kiara Lawson’s costumes are terrific: the children are in period costume, the animals (and half-animals) are endearingly shaggy, and the Witch is an icy vision of white and silver. Darren Boquist’s sculptural lighting conjures everything from narrow forest paths to a warm hearth, and Julie Casselman’s original music underscores the adventure’s changing moods.

      Whether or not you’ve been to Narnia before, this trip is worth taking. Bring the family.