A beloved C.S. Lewis classic, “The Horse and His Boy,” makes its debut on the World Stage Theater at the Museum of the Bible this weekend. The story, based on Lewis’ fifth “Chronicles of Naria” book, introduces audiences to Shasta, portrayed by Brinton Stanton, and his talking horse, Bree, brought to life by a group of skilled puppeteers.
The captivating production, brought to the theater by the Logos Theater with the C.S. Lewis Company limited, utilizes a variety of puppets, costumes, and sets to draw viewers into the fictional world of Narnia. The story takes place while the Pevensies — Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy — were kings and queens of Narnia. After learning that his adoptive father will sell him into slavery to a wealthy Taarkaan, Shasta confers with the Taarkaan’s talking horse captured from Narnia. The two decide to escape their cruel master and run away to the freedom that Narnia brings. Along the way, they encounter Aravis (Liliana Groth), a Narnian princess, and her talking horse, Hwin.
“The Horse and His Boy” was adapted for the stage and directed by Nicole Chavers Stratton for the Logos Theater in Taylors, South Carolina. When the Museum of the Bible leadership and board members were looking for a show to kick off its 2023 theater season, they were blown away by the production.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw,” said Garrett Hinton, chief revenue officer of Museum of the Bible. “I’ve been in and around theater for years and wasn’t expecting what I saw when I went down there. It’s truly a larger-than-life show, and we couldn’t wait to sign them to have them come and produce it here.”
Nicole’s parents founded the Academy of Arts in 1971 with “the express purpose of making the Bible come alive on stage, through storytelling.” Nicole’s father, Dr. Nicky Chavers, who passed away two years ago, even appears in the production as the voice of Aslan, interacting with Brinton Stratton, his grandson.
“I had not heard his voice until I started the production again,” she said. “To see my son acting with his grandfather, it was really powerful.”
Dr. Chavers laid the groundwork for many of the new production’s milestones, including the partnership with the Museum of the Bible, which he prayed would someday happen. He also supported the idea of the long-running theater to begin tackling the “Narnia” series, something Nicole said he was initially opposed to.
“I didn’t want to disappoint anyone who loves them so much,” she said. “And I love them so much. I think all of us have loved and appreciated them. Once we realized the puppetry was possible, it opened another world to us. So, I’m really glad they suggested it. It’s been transformative for our ministry.”
The initial reactions to the production have been emotional, Nicole said, with audience members crying at the sight and majesty of the Aslan puppet, and also the words he speaks to Shasta to comfort him in a time of distress and depression that he was walking with him through all of his darkest moments. For Nicole, beyond the production and accolades, the ultimate hope is that audience hears inspiration and hope through the play.
“I think for all of us, we’ve had those times where we are so down, and we say ‘God, do you even know I’m here? Does it matter? Do you care?’,” she said. “The Lord speaking is right to us through that, saying, ‘I’ve been there every step of the way’.”
“The Horse and His Boy,” using 45 cast and crew members from Logos Theater, will run for more than 40 performances between January 20 and March 3. Four American Sign Language shows will take place on January 25, January 26, February 15 and February 16. Tickets and more information can be found here.