THIS month’s theatrical highlight at Helmsley Arts Centre is the 1812 Youth Theatre’s musical production of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, writes Natasha Jones, artistic director.

Based on the well-loved fantasy novel by C S Lewis, first published in 1950, this show brings together our junior and senior youth theatre groups to create a magical journey to Narnia - through a wardrobe door, of course.

The show’s book, music and lyrics are all by Irita Kutchmy, a trained classical pianist whose favourite book as a child was The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and who says she “spent a lot of time in my parent’s wardrobe, begging it to let me into Narnia”.

In 1982, after seeing a school production of another musical, Joseph And The Technicolour Dreamcoat, Irita Kutchmy found that the title song of The Lion, The Witch… “sprang into my head as if from nowhere”. A whole lot more of her wonderfully jazzy narrative songs “flowed thick and fast within the space of a fortnight” to make a complete show that was first performed by Redroofs Theatre School in Maidenhead in 1985.

It’s a perfect project for the 1812 Youth Theatre, whose ages range from five to 19 and who absolutely thrive when they have the opportunity work together as a large ensemble. The support they offer each other is truly inspiring for me as their director, watching senior members pass on experience and skills to juniors.

This production has presented a challenge for all of us, with a large cast, masses of costume, a movable set and 20 songs. My co-director Florrie Stockbridge took on the huge task of teaching the songs and bringing them to life on stage. It’s an impressive sound.

We started rehearsing as long ago as last October, so the whole company is really excited as the performance dates approach at last. The leading roles of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are taken by Katie Goodwin, Freya Maxwell, Esme Schofield and Charlotte O’Neill; Millie Macphee is the White Witch and Mr Tumnus is played by Amelia Featherstone; there are lots of other colourful characters and our cast work brilliantly together. Two senior youth theatre members, Shona Cunnison and Millie Neighbour, are leading the stage crew, and Shona also designed the watercolour illustration for the show’s publicity.

Local composer, pianist and choral leader Toby Huelin will provide live music for the performances - which are from Wednesday, March 27 to Saturday, March 30, at 7.30pm, plus a matinee on the Saturday at 2.30pm. To book, phone 01439 771700 or