Originally Published: December 20, 2013 6:03 a.m.
What better way to celebrate life than for the whole family to see "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," playing now on the Prescott Center for the Arts main stage.
Once people walk into PCA for their trip to Narnia, the magic begins, with lights cascading down in a forest of trees, evoking a snowy, cold and gloomy atmosphere.
C.S. Lewis wrote "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," the first of seven novels in "The Chronicles of Narnia" series for children, and it is children, with the help of talented adult actors, who make this fantasy come alive for the PCA audience.
The setting is Narnia, a land where the evil White Witch (Bethany Clesceri) rules over mythical creatures and animals that talk. The witch is determined to stay in control of her domain rather than let it fall into the hands of the good Aslan the lion (William Link). She proclaims, "It is always winter, never Christmas."
All fear the White Witch's power, knowing that if they betray her in any way, she will turn them into stone.
Four siblings are the first humans to visit Narnia, and their adventure begins with the youngest of the four, Lucy (Norah Steverson) reaches Narnia when she climbs into a wardrobe in a spare room in the house where they live. Once in Narnia, Lucy finds out about the White Witch and her cruel ways, and eventually her brothers and sister - Peter (Sheridan Fischer), Edmond (Carly Fonda) and Susan (Erika Gustafson) - follow her to Narnia and the battle between good and evil.
The story is symbolic of the story of Christ, the play's director, Parker Anderson, said. "I wanted to do it because it's a great story with a beautiful message. It's more than a Christmas story. It has deep meaning for Christmas and that is what Christmas is all about."
The play runs at 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 and are available by calling the PCA box office at 445-3286 or visiting firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cast of 25 children, teenagers and adults rose to the challenge of delivering the message in the characters they played.
Bethany, who is a freshman at the Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center in Prescott Valley, easily conveyed a mean image.
"The White Witch was the best character for a young woman to play. She is good for character development. I like playing evil characters," she said. "This is the best play in my opinion."
Norah is a third-grader at Liberty Traditional School and practiced her lines a lot at home.
She wants to be a zookeeper when she grows up, although she "has 37 jobs" in mind for her adult years.
"I really like how I get to act and have fun with other people and make friends," she said of her acting in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.a
Norah is a veteran actor at her young age. This is her seventh play, as she follows the path of her older sisters, who are also active in theater arts. Norah played Susan in "Miracle on 34th Street," and she is looking forward to being in Disney's "101 Dalmatians" at PCA in February.
Sheridan, 15, who is home-schooled, played in PCA's Teen Summer Stock Ensemble's production of "Footloose" and loves the experience of being on stage, he said. He hopes to be in PCA's production of "Les Miserables" next year and is deciding between a career as a professional actor or being on a SWAT team.
Genevieve Horn, 9, who goes to Taylor Hicks Elementary School and is in the witch's army, has relished the experience of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." It's one of the best plays I have been in. I am learning a lot."
Carly, a seventh-grader is goes to school online, is known to PCA audiences because she played "Annie," and she has been in "The Elk in the Attic" and "Miracle Worker."
"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is "so cool," she said. "I loved reading the book and watching the movie. I think it's a great story. I love the message. It's about someone dying for other people."
An adult in the show, Michael Clesceri, whose career is building websites, portrays Fenris Ulf, the ferocious wolf in Narnia. He is a relative newcomer to the stage and believes "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is a "great production and a great show."
The message, he said, "is appropriate for the time of year - Christmas and the forces of good and evil. The kids will really enjoy being immersed in a fantasy world and seeing their peers on stage."
One of the younger actors, Jason Ertl, 9, also home-schooled, was in "Miracle on 34th Street," and has been cast in a role in "To Kill a Mockingbird," which PCA will present in January.
Jason plays the dwarf, the witch's servant, and watched the story's movie version in order to emulate the character's "really rough voice."
As part of this production, Jason said he learned about Jesus' crucifixion and "how Jesus came to life."