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Transforming Narnia into a Musical – The Pevensies
‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is a book by C.S. Lewis that has touched a lot of hearts. The story about four siblings who stumbles upon the magical land of Narnia and must help to defeat the White Witch who has Narnia trapped in an eternal winter.
In 1988, BBC did their version of the novel and in 2005 came the theatrical version, but that hasn’t stopped the stage versions. Ever year at least 13 different productions of the lovely novel hit the stage all over the world. Next group to take this story on is the ‘Lion’s Theatre’ from Gothenburg. The Lion’s Theatre [Lejonets Teater] is a youth theatre group for children between the ages 7-20. The name comes from the Lion on Gothenburg’s coat of arms, which has a yellow lion on it.
They did their version of ‘the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ as their Christmas play for last year and are still showing it to some school classes. I saw the production when I went with a pre-school class that I work with after my school day has ended. I asked to do an interview with one of the children from the main cast but just in March I got the call that I would do the interview with all the actors who play the Pevensie siblings.
I sat down with Christoffer L.; the 18 year old who plays Peter Pevensie, Anna S.; the beautiful 16 year old who plays Susan Pevensie, Sebastian O.; a 13 year old playing the role of the complicated character Edmund Pevensie, and the very sweet Johanna S.; the 9 year old who’s playing the role of the innocent youngest sister Lucy Pevensie.
Alexandria – Hi, it’s so great to meet you and thank you for doing this. I’m going to begin by congratulating you for the amazing work you did, four stars out of five in GP [Göteborgs Posten], that’s amazing!
Anna – Yeah it really is! We never thought it would be so well received … I mean last time we [the Theatre] did the production it didn’t really do that well and I think that everyone felt like we should put the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on the shelf and go in a new direction.
Christoffer – But then last year we thought it would be a great play for Christmas and we opened on the 25th December, in celebration for the Chronicles of Narnia: the Voyage of the Dawn Treader which was released on the same day [in Sweden] on year before. At first we where thinking of doing the Voyage of the Dawn Treader but we felt like the first book had more of the Christmas feeling.
Alexandria – Yes that’s true. So how did the casting work out? Did you read your lines from the script or did you do something else?
Johanna – I sang!
CL – Yeah she did, I was there at the time since my sister auditioned for the role as well. [To Johanna] Didn’t you sing a psalm?
JS – I did! I sang ‘Hosianna, Davids son’. I remember that I was freaking out because I couldn’t find a song that I wanted to sing and one that I knew I couldn’t forget.
It was actually my grandmother who came to me and suggested that I should sing it; apparently it was her favourite song from when I was in the Church choir.
Sebastian Ottoson – I actually got my sister to help me with the audition … she had helped me at home by playing the role of Susan and we just started to improvise an argument. We really went after each other and the strange thing is that you actually got angry, even though we both knew that we had no reason to be mad at each other. But the director liked it and I got the part.
AS – [to Sebastian] How come your sister didn’t get the role if Daniel [the director] liked it so much?
SO – She never auditioned.
Alexandria – Once you found out that you got your roles; did you do any research on your characters?
AS – I did. I always thought of Susan to like an extra mother to her siblings, so I used my own brothers as training dolls [laughs]. By the end of it they were so sick of me that they locked me in the closet for an hour. I guess I deserved it, I was rather overbearing.
SO – I think the one who did the least preparing was Johanna. She practically just played herself, just a little less jumpy.
But I did a lot of preparing for the role of Edmund. He’s not just someone you can play just like that, he has so many different emotions through out the book and I really wanted to capture that. I know that I based the “playful” side on Bart Simpson; I think they shared that sort of humour.
I also watched the 2005 version of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – where the British actor Skandar Keynes plays the role of Edmund – countless of times just to see how he [Keynes] portrayed Edmund. I both read and watched his interviews to get more information to really go in deep and find what source he used. I pretty much based my entire acting on his because I thought he portrayed it so well.
Alexandria – Now this version is rather different from some other productions of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, can you tell us why?
CL – It’s a musical.
JS – Since it wasn’t written as a musical we’ve had to come up with our own lyrics and where to place them in the story. And I have to say that it was quite a challenge since it’s hard making a musical out of a fantasy story, even more so since there is so much animation in the films.
CL – But I think we did a good job. We had lots of help from songwriters and others, so I think we managed to make everything look realistic, even the sword fighting.
AS – I would be offended if people called it a joke. We have worked long and hard to make this, we don’t just stand in one place and sing. It’s an entire dance number. And we have made sure that we still stay true to Lewis’ original story.
CL – Yeah, it is a rather serious story. I’ve only played playful roles before so this was quite the challenge for me.
Alexandria – So what other roles have you played?
JS – I’ve only been in on other role and I wasn’t a big on. But I was one of the ballet dancers when we did the production of ‘Billy Elliot’.
AS – I was in that one as well, I played Mrs. Wilkinson. I also played Elizabeth in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I’ve played some other roles over the years but these are the ones I can think of now.
CL – Like I said before I’ve mostly done unserious roles. We did the ‘Lion King’ one time and I played Timon.
SO – This was the first role for me. I joined just in time for the production and I was honoured to take on the role, not to mention that it was so much fun to work on.
Alexandria – Now Sebastian you mentioned that you watched the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as part of your preparation, but what about the rest of the films? Have you guys seen them?
SO – I’ve watched all of them. I’ve also watched the BBC version of the first one but I think I liked the 2005 version better.
JS – I’ve seen the first one, but not the later ones. I wasn’t old enough to see them in the cinemas.
CL – I’ve watched the a lot with my younger sister, she absolutely loves them.
AS – Well I can’t say the same for my brothers; they usually just want to watch the battles. But I’ve watched all of them, including the BBC versions. I don’t know which ones I like best though.
Alexandria – Who’s your favourite character in the series?
AS – I’ve always liked Edmund. I have friends who tease me about that since he is kind of a brat in the first book. But I like the fact that he is such a complex character and there is so much to him that you can see on the surface.
SO – I like Reepicheep, he’s cool.
CL – I’m going to agree with Anna, Edmund is one of my favourites as well. But I think Aslan will always top the list.
JS – I’m going to be honest and say that I like my character the best [the other cast members laugh and asks if she trying to promote herself]. Say what you want but I love the fact that Lucy is so loveable and she was the one who discovered Narnia.
[Here Sebastian points out that without Edmund they didn’t have a reason to be in Narnia. Johanna points out that if he hadn’t followed Lucy the first time he would never have known what existed in the wardrobe]
She refuses to believe anything bad about her siblings and can forgive almost anyone.
Alexandria – It most have taken a lot of time to get ready for all of it?
CL – Oh yes! We spent 10 hours each day for 2 week just to learn all the lines and the choreography. It was a lot to learn but it was fun and it gave great results.
AS – I think we became sort of a little family, since everyday we spent 10 hours or more with each other. It’s impossible not to grow close during that time, especially if you have so much fun together.
JS – We used the main part of our Christmas holiday just for practise. There were days when you woke and just felt like you didn’t want to continue, just take a day off or so. But as soon as you came to the stage all of that doubt just disappeared.
Alexandria – What do you think the future will hold?
JS – I don’t know … I don’t really think about that, I just hope it will be something fun!
SO – I hope to be in more productions, doesn’t matter if they’re musicals or regular theatre.
AS – I do know that the next production is either the ‘Wizard of OZ’ or ‘Wicked’. But the auditions haven’t started yet, I hope to get one of the main roles but we’ll see.
CL – [to Anna] I heard that we’re doing Sweeney Todd next … I would have loved to be in that one.
These were fun kids that really seem to have both feet on the ground and they know what they want. I wish them all the best.